Monday, February 8, 2016

48 Hours of Movies: 1984!

by Patrick Bromley
Kick off 1984 Week by marathoning two days straight of movies from the year that inspired this year's #fthismoviefest!

We're celebrating the movies of 1984 all week in the run up to F This Movie Fest 5. It was a great year for movies both big and small, both prestige and genre movies alike. And while I'm really happy with our lineup for the fest this year (Catherine Mary Stewart REPRESENT), there are so many more 1984 movies I want to watch that even the usual 24 Hours of Movies won't cut it. Because this is a special week, let's watch TWO FULL DAYS of 1984 movies! Sleep does not exist in this dojo.

10 a.m. - Sixteen Candles (1984, dir. John Hughes)
We're in this for the long haul, so it's best to start off light. Since '84 gave birth to the John Hughes teen film, it makes sense to begin with his first: the movie that would define an entire subgenre, which would codify his mix of broad comedy with sentimentality, his insistence on taking the thoughts and feelings of young people totally seriously, his use of New Wave soundtracks and, maybe most importantly, the start of his working relationship with Molly Ringwald, his muse for several of his most important films. I've never been as into Sixteen Candles as much as a few other John Hughes movies, but I could easily watch it any time it's on and it's going to get the next 48 hours off to a breezy, fun start.

Noon - Red Dawn (1984, dir. John Milius)
Let's swing it back the other way for the next movie and watch a bunch of actors who would otherwise star in teen movies (C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Chuck Sheen) form a militia to defend the country from a takeover by Russian and Cuban armies. As far as 1984 is concerned, Red Dawn has historical significance because it was the first movie ever released with a PG-13 rating. It also has cultural significance because it's an absolutely pure distillation of writer/director John Milius' politics and life philosophy: everyone is out to get us, we all need guns and we must drink the blood of our kills. Wolverines!

2 p.m. - The Hit (1984, dir. Stephen Frears)
This quiet, stylish British crime thriller should remind us that the cool movies of 1984 weren't just science fiction and fantasy movies or goofy comedies. There was room for artistic genre films as well. John Hurt and a young, hotheaded Tim Roth play hitmen carrying out a job against Terence Stamp; naturally, complications ensue. It's early enough in the marathon that we'll still be able to handle the quieter, existentialist rhythms of this one. It's a really cool little movie.

3:45 p.m. - Top Secret! (1984, dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)
After four hours of serious movies about guns and killing, let's kick back with something completely silly and fun. It's probably a function of my age, but I have a greater connection to Top Secret!, the ZAZ triumvirate's spoof of spy movies and Elvis musicals, than I do to their own Airplane!. It's impossible for me to pick a favorite gag from this movie. Like a lot of spoofs, it overstays its welcome a little but I love too much of it to care. Plus, Val Kilmer sings and dances! And it's great!

5:15 p.m. - Blood Simple (1984, dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
Ok, let's get back to the guns and the killing. The first movie from the Coen Brothers is still one of my favorites, a darkly comic noir starring a young Frances McDormand and wonderfully hate-worthy performances from Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh in a story about just how difficult it is to get away with murder. The Coen Brothers come right out of the gate as born filmmakers, and though it can be a little arch and self-conscious it's still so tense and clever that it's going to make a great bridge between Top Secret! and the next movie.

7 p.m. - Gremlins (1984, dir. Joe Dante)
I typically like to program the big, commercial crowd pleasers in the prime time 7 p.m. slot, and that describes Gremlins perfectly. It's silly and subversive and anarchic and it's a miracle not only that it was released by a major studio in 1984 but that it was also a massive success, opening in the summer (on the same day as Ghostbusters!) and playing all the way through to the end of the year. Two years removed from the blockbuster success of E.T., '84 is where we really start to see the Amblin effect taking hold and I love that Joe Dante used his Hollywood launching pad to pull the rug out from producer Steven Spielberg's formula. Of historical note, it was this movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that led to the first PG-13 movie (Red Dawn, which we watched a few hours ago) being released a few months later.

9 p.m. - Body Double (1984, dir. Brian De Palma)
Though it's often dismissed as a sleazy Hitchcock rip-off (and it is both, borrowing liberally from both Rear Window and Vertigo), I maintain that this is Brian De Palma's second most underrated movie behind Femme Fatale. It's him doing his virtuoso late '70s/early '80s thriller but with a gloss of tackiness. Bill Maher Craig Wasson infiltrates the porn scene to find out more about a woman with whom he's obsessed. There are set pieces here as good as anything De Palma has done -- particularly one involving a Native American and a drill. This was actually my first "real" Brian De Palma movie and it quickly sent me down the rabbit hole of his movies that weren't Carrie or The Untouchables. I was immediately in love and have never looked back.

11. p.m. - A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. Wes Craven)
As usual, I want to program some horror movies as we enter the [first] overnight portion of the marathon. The original Nightmare on Elm Street is a great pick, as it's all about the bad things that will happen if you fall asleep. DON'T FALL ASLEEP. I've said it on the site a dozen times already, but this has become my all-time favorite horror movie over the last 10 years. Holy shit did a lot of great movies come out in 1984.

12:45 a.m. - The Company of Wolves (1984, dir. Neil Jordan)
And now shit can get really weird. Neil Jordan's horror fantasy is beautiful and strange and nightmarish and not entirely successful, but at this time of morning that doesn't matter. It's exactly what we need. When I was a young kid, the two images that scared me most in this world were the VHS covers for this movie and Microwave Massacre. I still had to sneak a peek at Microwave Massacre every time I was in the video store, but The Company of Wolves freaked me out so much that I went out of my way to avoid it.

2:30 a.m. - Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, dir. Joseph Zito)
I don't want to pat myself on the dick, but this lineup is getting me more and more psyched with every new movie. 1984 was supposed to signal the end of the Friday the 13th franchise with this, the fourth film in the series. Instead it ran for another six entries, plus a remake and Freddy vs. Jason. I don't just love this movie because it's the best Friday film; I love it because it's a legitimately good slasher movie: the characters are good, the kills are genuinely horrifying and Joseph Zito directs the shit out of it. As much as I enjoy some of the Ft13th movies that came after this one (especially A New Beginning [RIP Joey]), part of me wishes the series really had ended here because I love the idea that a kid just a few years older than I was in 1984 was the one to take down Jason Voorhees. This Tommy Jarvis is the best Tommy Jarvis.

4:15 a.m. - Bachelor Party (1984, dir. Neal Israel)
After a run of horror movies overnight, I want to lighten the mood a little as we get ready for the sun to come up. Of all the stupid raunchy comedies made between Animal House and 1985, Bachelor Party is one of my favorites. I can't defend the choice except to point out that even a movie as dumb as this, Tom Hanks manages to be great and likable and funny and not the smug douchebag Chris Lemmon type that usually anchors this kind of film. Plus it's got Dudikoff! And Zmed! This is exactly what we need at 4 a.m. I enjoy this movie so much more than I should.

6:15 a.m. - The Wild Life (1984, dir. Art Linson)
In keeping with trying to balance some of the biggest movies of 1984 with some of the forgotten also-ran titles, let's greet the morning with Cameron Crowe's spiritual sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the largely ignored The Wild Life. What Fast Times wants to do for high school, The Wild Life tries to do for those years right after graduation when you've got freedom but little direction. It doesn't work as well as Fast Times (because director Art Linson is not Amy Heckerling), but there's a lot of good stuff and an impressive cast that includes Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, Rick Moranis, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Jenny Wright and Christopher Penn filling his brother's shoes as the movie's version of Spicoli.

8 a.m. - Beverly Hills Cop (1984, dir. Martin Brest)
I want to wrap up the first 24 block of our 1984 marathon with something that really represents the year but is also super entertaining, because we still have a long way to go. I wrote a few weeks ago about my issues with Beverly Hills Cop II, but the original -- which was the highest-grossing movie of 1984 until Ghostbusters beat it out after the fact -- is still a really strong action comedy that retains a level of grittiness and underdog spirit. Maybe it's because Eddie Murphy wasn't yet the biggest movie star in the world (he would be after this movie) or maybe it's because he wears that great blue hoodie through the whole thing. The movie still holds up and should hopefully work to reenergize us, as it marks the halfway point in our two day marathon. Pace yourself.

10 a.m. - The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984, dir. Stuart Rosenberg)
Hopefully feeling recharged by Eddie Murphy and some Monster Energy Drink, let's kick off Day 2 with this great crime picture about a pair of fuckups (Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts, two actors who eventually got super weird but here are in their prime) looking to make a big score. What I like about the movie is that its scale is small (everyone is small time) but it's all played big, swinging for the fences in a way that not enough movies do anymore.

12:15 p.m. - Johnny Dangerously (1984, dir. Amy Heckerling)
The middle part of our Day 2 crime block is Amy Heckerling's gangster spoof Johnny Dangerously, an extremely funny and extremely silly movie that will allow us to put our brains into sleep mode and just laugh at a bunch of absurdism. More jokes probably miss than hit, but the movie throws so much at the wall that enough sticks for it to be a great time. He's mostly known for being a dramatic actor these days (thanks, Birdman), but Michael Keaton was a great comic performer in 1984. Even Joe Piscopo comes off ok in this one, having most of the movie's most memorable lines. My favorite? When describing his oversize .88 magnum handgun: "It shoots through schools."

1:45 p.m. - Once Upon a Time in America (1984, dir. Sergio Leone)
Ah, yes. Ok. Maybe it's masochistic to program the four-hour cut of Sergio Leone's gangster epic somewhere around hour 30 of our marathon, but it's no accident. Programming it earlier would wear us out for the duration, whereas here we can just give ourselves over to it. I'm still of the mind that this is one of the greatest movies ever made, and I like the idea of spending the entire afternoon block on one massive masterpiece.

5:45 p.m. - Stop Making Sense (1984, dir. Jonathan Demme)
Our brains will need a break after OUaTiA, so this seems like a great time to kick back and let Jonathan Demme's wonderful Talking Heads concert film wash over us. This is a really good movie that doesn't require a lot from us as an audience. We just get to enjoy the music and appreciate the opportunity to see a great American band performing live at their peak. I'm not a huge concert movie guy, but I love Stop Making Sense and I love that the cinematic climate in 1984 could still support a theatrical release for a movie like this.

7:15 p.m. - Revenge of the Nerds (1984, dir. Jeff Kanew)
Recognizing that our heads will still be melted after having been awake for so long at this point, I'm trying to keep things brainless before getting even weirder overnight. I can't really defend my affection for Revenge of the Nerds except to say that it was one of the first rated R movies I ever saw (at a friend's house in secret) and the first time I remember seeing nudity on screen. So much of what is gross and repellent about '80s comedies is on display here, from the horribly misogyny (rape as courting ritual) to the weird issues of class, race and gay panic, but the movie really does mean well and wants to be sweet for what that's worth. Now that the nerds have taken over in 2016, this movie seems ahead of its time in making them the heroes. A few of the characters are really wonderful, none more so than Curtis Armstrong's Dudley "Booger" Dawson, still one of my favorite movie characters of all time.

8:45 p.m. - The Ice Pirates (1984, dir. Stewart Raffill)
I deliberately pushed a lot of the sillier and/or weirder movies to this block of Day 2 when we're just running on fumes and can't be sure what is real and what we're hallucinating. This is the best state of mind in which to watch The Ice Pirates, a movie I grew up loving but might not hold up as well as it did for the 1984 version of me. One of many sci-fi films made in the wake of Star Wars, The Ice Pirates contains about twice as much plot as it needs but has a silly spirit that's infectious and an overly-busy production design that's great fun for those of us who respond to the handmade detail in movies like this. Though forgotten by almost everyone but the fans, The Ice Pirates wound up being a pretty big influence on James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. The spirit of '84 lives on.

10:30 p.m. - Dreamscape (1984, dir. Joseph Ruben)
As we get more and more exhausted, we continue to get weirder into the night with another movie in which dreaming plays a huge role. The second movie ever release with a PG-13 rating (Red Dawn beat it by just a few days), Dreamscape casts Dennis Quaid as a psychic who becomes part of a government program in which people enter the dreams of others for reasons ranging from helping with sleeping disorders to assassination. Yes, the basic premise does sound a lot like Inception, but whereas Christopher Nolan's dream worlds are very reality-bound (buildings and mountains), the dreamscapes of Dreamscape are a lot trippier and more imaginative. The movie has a lot of rough edges, but it compensates with imagination. Chuck Russell produced and contributed to the screenplay, which might help explain why it works.

12:15 a.m. - The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984, dir. W.D. Richter)
We have nearly reached peak insanity. The years from 1982 and 1984 were some of my favorites ever for American movies because the marketplace supported a huge variety of sci-fi and fantasy films, from big-budget A-list productions like Dune to crazy little indies that still received a wide release and found life on VHS and cable. This is the only period in which a movie like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension stood a chance at being made. Here's the plot summary taken from Wikipedia: "[Buckaroo Banzai] concerns the efforts of the multi-talented Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, a physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock musician, to save the world by defeating a band of inter-dimensional aliens called Red Lectroids from Planet 10." So there you go. It's a movie I would normally resist because it's prefabricated as a cult favorite, but the imagination, eccentricity and deadpan sense of humor are all so great and the cast (which includes Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Clancy Brown, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya and Billy Vera) so bulletproof that it's impossible for anyone not to love it. Because the movie was a box office disappointment -- making back about a third of its budget -- and because the marketplace shifted away from movies like this, we never got the promised sequel Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.

2:15 a.m. - C.H.U.D. (1984, dir. Douglas Cheek)
I'm putting this here mostly to break up the run of cult sci-fi that we've been watching since Ice Pirates at 9. John Heard plays a photographer who discovers that homeless people in New York are being mutated by toxic waste and turned into C.H.U.D. -- Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. It's exactly the movie it sounds like, with a sense of self-awareness that doesn't turn too campy or comic. C.H.U.D. distinguishes itself not only with its memorable title and ludicrous premise but also with its scuzzy aesthetic -- the movie feels authentically grimy, born out of the 42nd Street culture of early '80s New York.

3:45 a.m. - Repo Man (1984, dir. Alex Cox)
All of our hallucinatory cult movie insanity culminates with Alex Cox's Repo Man, a wonderfully odd sci-fi classic following the adventures of two repo men (Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton) who get mixed up with government agents, UFOs, punk rockers and televangelists. It's as great as it sounds. Repo Man is crazy quirky but not artificially so, coming off as legitimately hip and coming by its sense of cool honestly. Watching it at 4 a.m. will seem like either the best idea ever or a total test of patience. I lean towards the former.

5 a.m.Breakin' (1984, dir. Joel Silberg)
After more that 40 consecutive hours of watching movies, Breakin' just makes sense. It's nice to have Cannon Films represented somewhere in the marathon, but the movie also works as a time capsule of 1984 when not just one breakdancing musical could be made but two, as the sequel (Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo) was released later the same year. This is the "grittier" of the two -- I prefer the cartoonish buoyancy of the follow-up -- but the dancing is fun and the movie has so much energy that it's sure to revive us for the remaining few hours. We're going to need it. Help us, Ozone. You're our only hope.

6:30 a.m. - Conan the Destroyer (1984, dir. Richard Fleischer)
So much science fiction has been included in this 48-hour marathon that I've failed to showcase any fantasy movies, which were still viable in 1984. Conan the Destroyer is definitely the lesser of the two original Conan movies, but it's so stupid that it's exactly what we need as the penultimate film. It's the Saturday morning "kids movie" version of Conan, but still super violent and at times weirdly kinky because in 1984 you could get away with that in a PG movie.

8:30 a.m. - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984, dir. Leonard Nimoy)
With this, our 48 hours of 1984 movies comes to an end. Star Trek III's greatest sin is that it isn't Wrath of Khan and undoes that movies boldest and best story development, but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie or unworthy of appreciation (though the maxim that odd-numbered Star Trek movies are all bad hasn't helped its reputation). There are a lot of problems, including the recasting of Saavik and the almost indifferent fate of Kirk's son David, but I like the Klingon villains led by Christopher Lloyd under prosthetics and the way that director Leonard Nimoy embraces weirdness. I mostly want to watch this one as the last movie because I love the idea of wrapping up two days' worth of movies with Kirk and Spock being reunited. We've been through some shit in the last 48 hours. It will be such a cathartic rush of hopeful optimism to see Spock take off the hood and reveal himself. I'm practically crying just thinking about it. Maybe that's just the exhaustion talking.



  1. 1984. Best movie year ever for a young movie lover.

    This is amazing. Fantastic lineup.

  2. Just saw a screening of Blood Simple at the Film Forum in NYC as part of a Coen bros retrospective. My first time watching it. I was surprised at how much I laughed. I also wonder if I am the only one who (Sorta Spoilers) was reminded of a couple of early Breaking Bad episodes (early season 1-involving the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong) during Blood Simple's murder sequence?

  3. As much as I love this lineup (and I LOVE this lineup), I'd be lying if I didn't say my main takeaway from this is that I'm totally stealing "I don't want to pat myself on the dick."

    Also, I unabashedly love Conan the Destroyer and have to watch whatever's left of it any time I catch it already airing on cable. So much goofy fun, and Tracey Walter is the best.

  4. Thanks, Patrick. Now I won't be able to see Maher on TV without hearing "I like to watch..." in my head.

    Seriously, this is a great selection. 1984 really was a terrific year for movies.

    "Jim. Your Jim." (sniff) I must be catching a cold or something.

  5. Having just watched The Company of Wolves for the first time the other day, I have to say that it's like Inception if every level of dreams in Inception involved werewolves and feminist undertones. Took awhile for me to get into it, but ended up liking it quite a bit despite some of the flaws it has.

  6. Fear City is on youtube if you don't want to pony up the 30 Berenger's for the blu ray. The first total sleaze movie I ever saw.

  7. Question for everyone: '82 or '84? '82 has the edge for me.... but it's close

  8. Scrap that, Toxic Avenger being '84 totally messes with my judgement. But Blade Runner! Anyway, happy that we have all theses movies.

  9. how do you do it?

    Red bull?

    Stake awake pills?


    this is a genuine question, how do you actually physically do it?

    1. I was wondering that very thing too! Truth is, I guess you grab some naps whenever you can?

  10. 1984 my favorite year ever, 8 years old with plenty of fun times with friends, the best movies ever to watch, an the Tigers won the World Series, man do I love that year.