Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Reserved Seating: 1986 Top Ten Grab Bag

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who are counting down their favorite movie stuff from 1986.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: To celebrate 1986 week at F This Movie!, Rob and I are each counting down our top 10 things from movies in 1986. It can be posters, trailers, songs, scenes, characters, etc. I’ll start us out at #10.

10. “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber from my favorite movie of 1986: Oliver Stone’s Platoon. This became the de-facto theme for the film and it just makes your body and soul sink the moment you hear the music. This piece (performed for the first time in 1938) is achingly sad and really conveys the cry of the movie. It feels like a higher being is watching the events of the film in utter despair, but also powerless to intervene. In other sequences, the film memorably uses “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane and “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, but “Adagio for Strings” will always be the music I most associate with Platoon. Like the best scores, it takes you back to the feel of the movie immediately when you hear it. Rob, what’s your number 10?

Rob: My number ten is this scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. For those who can’t click, it’s the part when Scotty and McCoy give the 1986-era (era) engineer the formula for transparent aluminum. I can’t remember if they address this later in the film or not, but how badly did they just screw with the future history of engineering and construction? Did this sudden technological advance destabilize the marketplace or turn that guy into like a new evil Elon Musk or something? Was it a Predestination scenario? Would the Federation even be possible in the new timeline they just created? And just look at James Doohan typing away on the Macintosh Plus! He misses some of the keys entirely. It’s hilarious. I love that movie.
Adam: My number 9 are the Den-den daiko drums made popular in The Karate Kid Part II. These Japanese pellet drums are what Miyagi and Sato play during Daniel’s fight with Chozen at the end of the film. They’re awesome. When I originally saw The Karate Kid Part II as a kid, I wanted one of these drums very badly. Cut to 2014, I was in San Francisco, walked to Chinatown and guess what? I bought a couple of Den-den daiko drums. They didn’t last long, but let me tell ya, they were just as satisfying to play as I thought they would be.

Rob: I like how the Wikipedia page specifically cites The Karate Kid Part II’s influence on their popularity. My number nine is this Blue Velvet playset. Made specifically for ages 3 and up, it includes a rotting human ear, an inhaler mask, a replica beer bottle (Pabst Blue Ribbon!) and, of course, a scrap of blue velvet. This is the kind of novelty toy that a cinephile can display in their home to ensure that all their visitors are as uncomfortable as possible. “What is that?” normal people will ask. “Oh, they’re toys based on this weird horror movie,” you’ll respond. “Oh, so that’s not a real ear, right?” And then you’ll all go the rest of the night trying to pretend like you didn’t have an awkward conversation about a fake ear hanging on the wall.

Adam: Sounds like a perfect stocking stuffer for our next Holiday Gift Guide. Oddly enough, my number 8 is the trailer for Blue Velvet. It’s short and simple and dripping with confidence. I saw the trailer before my first screening of Lost Highway at the Music Box Theatre in 2006 as part of a David Lynch series they were doing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Blue Velvet. After seeing the trailer, I had to see the movie and I did, also at the Music Box. It was one of those great cases where a film completely lives up to its hype and reputation. I don’t have to tell you this, though, you seem to be a fan already :-) What’s your number 8?

Rob: I do dabble in Lynch from time to time. My number eight is this 2016 promotional video for Panasonic’s line of robot assistant technology, including a version of Ripley’s power loader suit from Aliens. There’s also a smaller version called the Power Assist Suit that supports workers’ back and legs while they move heavy loads. I ended up falling down a YouTube rabbit hole looking for movie technology and discovered that the aforementioned Star Trek transparent aluminum is now a real thing, too. They call it Alon Armor, which is actually a way cooler name than “transparent aluminum.” Remember how cool the gesture-based, pinch-and-swipe technology from Minority Report was in 2002? And now we’re using it every day. Question for you: What movie technology do you want next?

Adam: I want a Blade Runner 2049 Ana De Armas. I mean, a hoverboard. My number 7 is the epilogue from Stand By Me. Everything about this 3-minute stretch is perfect: the observations about childhood friendships, the Richard Dreyfus narration, the last bit of typing on the computer, the end credits music cue of “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, and most of all the shot of River Phoenix fading and disappearing. It’s such a sad coincidence, but it perfectly encapsulates how every fan feels about River Phoenix.

Rob: I bought Stand By Me on Blu-ray a year or so ago, and I just realized I haven’t watched it yet. I’ll have to rectify that this week. That was on a loop with My Girl a lot when I was a kid, which explains a lot about me. Speaking of which, my number seven is this “Leisure Rules” horizontal poster from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I got it when I was 12 or 13 years old, and it’s been with me everywhere I’ve lived since. When my son was born, I framed it and hung it up in his room. I’m hoping he’ll take it with him when he moves out.
Adam: Nice! My number 6 is Rob Bottin’s (The Thing, The Howling) makeup design for the Lord of Darkness (played by Tim Curry) in Legend. I’m not a big fan of the movie, but there are things to like in it such as Mia Sara or the Tangerine Dream score. The best scenes by far are the ones where the Lord of Darkness appears. He’s so incredible to look at (and listen to) that you want to pluck him out of Legend and drop him into a better fantasy film.
Rob: I’ve never actually seen Legend, but I just checked out some stills and I agree that the makeup design is pretty great. My number six is Timothy Dalton, who was announced as the fourth James Bond actor in 1986. Daniel Craig is a great Bond, probably my favorite, but he gets a lot of credit for things Timothy Dalton did with the role thirty years before him. He plays Bond reluctantly (both in-universe and out; the story goes that Dalton had to be talked into taking the job), realigning the character with Ian Fleming’s source material after more than a decade of Roger Moore’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal. His Bond is weightier and more severe without sacrificing the character’s essential charms. It’s great that we have so many different Bond flavors to choose from, but I still think Dalton’s portrayal is underrated.
Adam: I love the enthusiasm for Timothy Dalton as Bond on our site. I’m just not quite there yet. My number 5 is a duo of performances: Ken Foree and Barbara Crampton in From Beyond. I love the scene where Foree is cooking dumplings, because they look delicious. I also laugh every time we get to the scene where Barbara Crampton is dressed up in S&M gear and Foree shoves her in front of a mirror and says “LOOK AT YOURSELF! LOOK AT YOURSELF!” Finally, Crampton’s laugh/cry/scream before the end credits is a thing of beauty. I love From Beyond.

Rob: It’s so good! My number five is Pretty in Pink, but not necessarily because of the movie. Rather, it’s because of the number of students I’ve had this year discovering it for the first time and the conversations we’ve had about what they admire in it (and the other Brat Pack entries) and what they object to. I was able to point them to Molly Ringwald’s New Yorker op-ed about the sexual politics of Hughes’ writing and what it was like to show The Breakfast Club to her daughter for the first time. As adults are both fetishizing and reckoning with ‘80s culture, sometimes disavowing it for its dated ethos and uncomfortable bigotry, it’s very interesting to see the way young people are able to embrace it in a completely new context. They’re able to take what works and leave the rest.
Adam: That’s interesting. I figured teens of today wouldn’t have much patience for John Hughes. My number four is the song “As the World Falls Down” from Labyrinth. This is one of those songs that’s great to play on your phone while you lay in bed praying for a #SadNap. Every lyric feels like “This was fate. Take solace in knowing you never had a choice.” The scene it’s featured in during the movie is creepy and great, like an Eyes Wide Shut party hosted by Jim Henson. Is it just me or do you think the world of Labyrinth totally smells like grape candy (specifically Bonkers and Nerds)? P.S. Jennifer Connelly is almost supernaturally beautiful. I think it’s her stare. She holds eye contact for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Rob: Is any Connelly eye contact really uncomfortable? My number four is a group of actors who made their film debuts in 1986: Ving Rhames (Native Sons), Catherine Keener (About Last Night), Steve Buscemi (Parting Glances), Naomi Watts (For Love Alone), Wesley Snipes (Wildcats), Kristy Swanson (Pretty in Pink), Winona Ryder (Lucas), Tilda Swinton (Caravaggio), Bradley Whitford (Doorman), and Bill Pullman (Ruthless People). There are a ton of others, but those are some favorites of mine. 1986 also marked the directorial debuts of Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It), Renny Harlin (Born American), and Penny Marshall (Jumpin’ Jack Flash). Just some movie trivia for you!

Adam: I like(d) all of those people! My number three is Goose (played by Anthony Edwards) in Top Gun. I still really enjoy Top Gun. It’s got a lot of chutzpah. I’m with most people in thinking Goose is maybe the best part of the movie and I definitely remember being shook to the core when he SPOILER dies in the film. I remember being about five years old and wracking my brain how the failed eject could have been avoided so that Meg Ryan (and America) could still have Goose, our beautiful angel. Goose is the perfect wingman/best friend. RIP yo. Dude was too beautiful to live. I shit you not, in the sequel Top Gun: Maverick (due in 2020), Goose’s son is a trainee played by Miles Teller. I don’t understand how the progeny of Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards produces Miles Teller, but whatever, I still want to see the movie. co-stars Jennifer Connelly! This just gets better and better.
Rob: I actually had the Top Gun soundtrack on my original list, but I got so distracted listening to it that I couldn’t write. I’m glad the movie made it into the discussion, anyway! My number three is the Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis relationship in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. There are so many things to celebrate about the Fly, but the chemistry between Seth and Ronnie (amplified, of course, by the fact that Davis and Goldblum were dating at the time) make the romance and tragedy come to life. It’s just magic. Ronnie is the inspiration for so much of Seth’s success, which makes it all the more difficult that she has to watch him fall apart. She does everything she can to save someone who just can’t be saved from himself. Much has already been made of The Fly’s parallels to AIDS and Alzheimer's (Cronenberg apparently saw it as an allegory for aging), but the human core shines through regardless of your particular interpretation. Their last moment together is so complex and heartbreaking. It’s such a great movie.

Adam: I’m glad you picked Goldblum and Davis, because they were on my original list too. They’re both utterly terrific in The Fly and elevate the movie into a beautiful monster movie tragedy on par with the best ever put on-screen. My number two choice is the Michael McDonald “Sweet Freedom” music video from the awesome 1986 action flick Running Scared. Please tell me you’ve seen this music video before. It has everything: clips from the movie, the actors appearing in the music video to goof around with the musician, Gregory Hines in a Walter Payton jersey, etc. The song is also completely sensational. If anyone ever wanted to know what it’s like when I visit you in Philadelphia, it’s basically this music video.
Rob: My number two is Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, which is the feature debut of Jim Varney’s Ernest P. Worrell character. I haven’t seen this, nor did I have any idea it existed; I always through the Ernest character came from the Saturday morning TV show. Check out Wikipedia’s synopsis: “Dr. Otto is a mysterious villain with a hand attached on top of his head. He is plotting world domination using his gloom beam, which can delete matter or memory and has the power to destroy the world. The bumbling hero Lance Sterling is the only one who can stop him, but his only clue is a riddle which reads: ‘When the money is scrambled to the very last cent, riots and hatred soon will commence. When all the world's commerce will be put in a bind, from the evil that lurks where the sun never shines. It is I, Dr. Otto von Schnick-ick-ick-ick, who has played on you this trick-ick-ick-ick’...And to stop this horrible twisted trick, just exchange the poles of old Saint Nick. And if that doesn't do to save the day, put another quarter in and try another play.’" This movie sounds metal as hell.
Adam: As an Ernest scholar, I’m embarrassed I didn’t know about this. And finally, my number one favorite thing from a movie in 1986 is….the double climax to conclude Aliens! Holy shit! I always preferred James Cameron’s idea that the Xenomorph’s were a bug colony and his Alien Queen is an incredible creation. I saw it once at the Museum of Science & Industry back in the late-'80s (one of the Bruces from Jaws was there, too) and I stood in awe of both. They were mind blowing. Back to the climaxes (never thought I’d write that in my life), what’s so great about them are the energy, the accumulated build-up, the pumping James Horner score, Sigourney Weaver’s top-notch performance. It’s a stretch of film that has everything and why I come back to Aliens at least once every couple of years. The last 20-30 minutes of this movie are so satisfying.

Rob: It’s the best! I’m so excited that it’s closing out this year’s F This Movie Fest. My number one movie thing from 1986 is, well, me. I suppose that’s cheating. I’m going with it, anyway.

Adam: That’s a pretty great number one. I’ll allow it. What’s on tap for next week?

Rob: Our baseball series continues with 2005’s Fever Pitch, based on the novel by High Fidelity’s Nick Hornby. I’ve never seen it, but it’s co-directed by the Best Picture-winning helmer of Green Book, Peter Farrelly! We’re done talking about Green Book now, right? Until next time…

Adam: These seats are reserved. Happy 1986 Week!


  1. I just watched Star Trek IV on Monday, and the movie's not at all interested to address the whole timeline-changing thing. There's not one mention of things changing because of their meddling, even though they gave away the aforementioned transparent aluminum formula and took a person with them!

  2. This piece is incredibly fun, guys!!! And Adam - I wrote about "Sweet Freedom" in my music piece (posting tomorrow or Friday)!! LOVE IT SO MUCH!