Thursday, March 7, 2019

Shelf Life: 1986

by Erika Bromley and Patrick Bromley
“Shelf Life” is taking a one-week break from its usual alphabetical format to celebrate 1986 week here at F This Movie! The good news is that instead of only watching two movies for this installment, we’re watching a whole bunch.

Patrick: Beu! We’ve been getting in the #fthismoviefest spirit by watching a whole bunch of stuff in our collection from 1986, including several titles you had never seen before. Let’s talk about them!

The first one we watched was Modern Girls, a “comedy” about three young women (Virginia Madsen, Cynthia Gibb, the Zuniga) having a wild night out. Because they’re modern. They love the clubs. They’re looking for love. They find it in the form of not one but TWO Clayton Rohners.

I’ve liked this movie since seeing it on cable a lot as a kid (it played a whole bunch), but I think it might actually be just a feature-length commercial for a soundtrack. What did you think?

Erika: And I hope they sold that soundtrack! Though as you have pointed out before, it’s really the last song that drives it all home and makes it feel like the movie was better than it actually was. Though it was GREAT! Great fun. I have to admit I missed this one as a kid. I saw Can’t Buy Me Love 467 times, but Modern Girls never played in my house. Who do I blame?
I couldn’t help it, but as soon as it started, I was trying to assign myself and my grade school/junior high friends to the stereotypes presented in the movie (do you ever do this?). I couldn’t find “me,” though by the end I guess I was Zuniga? I like books! But in the beginning, she was kinda… snooty? I don’t think I was ever snooty. Oh, humans are all so complicated. I bring this up because it’s often been soooo easy to broadly stereotype ourselves and childhood friends in '80s movies, but I couldn’t really do it in Modern Girls. Cynthia Gibb reminded me a little of my childhood friend Jeanne, but more for the hair and “overall look” and excitement -- not so much for the “almost flying away with a rock start” part of her personality. Does this mean Modern Girls avoids stereotyping these characters and instead presents nuanced, sweetly complicated young people working through life’s big issues in one wild, exciting, life-changing night?

Patrick: I’m not sure there’s anything nuanced or complicated in Modern Girls. Watching it is like eating a whole bag of Skittles: it’s sugary and colorful and fun but I feel bad about liking it. This makes Zuniga the red Skittles, you know.

Also, I’m glad you identify most with D-Zun because she’s my favorite, so it makes sense why we’re together. And you have never, ever been snooty.

Next was One Crazy Summer, the Casino to Better Off Dead’s Goodfellas. This is a movie I can pretty much recite, but it was a first viewing for you. Besides falling hard for John Cusack (as Hoops McCann) in short shorts and boat shoes, what did you think?

Erika: I mean, my love for Cusack is well-known to you and many others, but One Crazy Summer Cusack was a new experience for me. I wasn’t crushing as hard as I have during other Cusack movies including Better Off Dead, The Sure Thing (Zunigs!), Say Anything, Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity… all the others… In this film, I just liked him so darn much! He reminded me of the guy that everyone wants to have in her friend group because we know he means well, he’s trying, he’s kind, and he’s willing to go along with almost anything. In terms of how he looked, I couldn’t stop thinking that if you and Doug had a baby, it would be One Crazy Summer John Cusack. But only One Crazy Summer John Cusack. This theory does not apply to other John Cusack.

Patrick: I think mine and Doug’s baby would look more like One Crazy Summer Bobcat Goldthwait.
Erika: This is another “Shelf Life” addition that we were able to watch with our kids, and that made the experience even more fun. Charlie and Rosie both laughed repeatedly and were remembering bits for days. I love the absurdity thrown in throughout the film. There are so many goofy characters and silly moments, from the inserts of McCann’s cartoon to Demi Moore punching through the newly painted boat, and our kids laughed at all of them. I love how sweet this story is, too, all while having some humorously odd beats throughout the crazy plot: the appearance of a biker gang, a character needing money to save her family’s home (a popular movie trope), a Godzilla costume, a mechanical dolphin with rabies, a million-dollar radio contest, a car turned into a boat…what am I forgetting?

Patrick: I laugh more in this movie more than I do in Airplane!, which we also recently watched for this column. Maybe that’s just because this is the one I grew up on. Maybe it’s because a lot of the humor here is more rooted in character and not just gags, though there are plenty of those. This movie will never mean as much to me as Better Off Dead does, but I’m always going to love it. And you’re right -- seeing the kids respond to it made the experience even better. It gives me hope that their senses of humor will be demented.

Erika: I love how we went from a “One Crazy Night” movie to a “One Crazy Summer” movie. What’s next? Did we stay on brand here?

Patrick: Lovecraft! Pink goo! Barbara Crampton in S&M gear! It’s From Beyond!
Erika: Ok. You can’t lead with that stuff. If I start talking about my next Halloween costume Barbara Crampton’s S&M costume, this column is going to go all “Shelf Life After Dark,” and no one wants that.

Patrick: Some people want that.

Erika: From Beyond was incredibly fun. I loved it! First, I loved the chemistry of the actors (Ken Foree is a favorite). Their characters believed in each other and understood the craziness of the situation with the Resonator (the machine invented to try to reach/study monsters living in another dimension -- the Monsterverse, if you will). After everyone was on board with what was actually happening, there was never the angry/misunderstanding scene that so often appears in movies. Crampton, Foree, and Jeffrey Combs make it all feel believable: their characters work together to destroy the machine and save each other. Body Horror is a genre that always ‘works’ for me but often keeps me from looking at the screen at all, but Stuart Gordon creates something gross AND fun -- I never had to look away and was giggling with delight at how awesomely disgusting the special effects were. When the pineal gland turned in to the pointy, slimy, skinny finger-penis and emerged from a forehead, I was appropriately giddy with movie effects excitement as well as grossed out. Again, this movie is FUN.

Also, will Ken Foree adopt me? We recently saw him in the Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, and he’s as awesome as ever. This was a re-watch for you, P. How’d it hold up? And did my giggling affect your viewing? (Sorry!)
Patrick: The giggling only made it more fun, because that seems like the appropriate response for how gooey and over-the-top this movie goes. I always imagine Stuart Gordon and the crew having the same response just off camera as they were making From Beyond.

I used to consider this a kind of “lesser” re-teaming of the Re-Animator people -- Wings to the first movie’s Beatles -- but I’ve gotten over that wrong-headed thinking in recent years. This is its own thing and works so, so perfectly as such. It’s a movie I like more every time I see it, and it was really fun to see it playing as well as it did for you. Once upon a time I would have stupidly told myself that this movie is too gross for you. Now I know I was wrong. Nothing is too gross for you. After all, you married me!

From there, I was very excited for you to see F/X for the first time, because I wanted to be Rollie Tyler as a kid. I still don’t know why.

Erika: You mentioned his black sweater and jeans while we were watching, and I must say, it’s a simple, sexy look. So I get it.
Are these columns boring if I LOVE everything? Should we pick some major Hollywood crap to try to mix it up? (My answer is no: there’s always room for more Movie Love - and #movielove. [But pause the movie!]) Because I really loved F/X. Where do I start? Scenes featuring movie shoots. New York as the setting (my favorite behind Chicago). A fast-talking detective. Car chases. Bryan Brown. Brian Dennehy! Diane Venora. Love. Tragedy. Friendship. Double-crossing. The Mafia. A key scene involving a phone booth. Special effects. More special effects! I mean, Rollie Tyler is basically Ethan Hunt.

Martha Gehman (Andy) looks exactly like if Jennifer Runyon and Priscilla Barnes (two of your many childhood crushes) had a baby -- but more importantly plays the type of trusting sidekick friend I love to see in movies. Soooo many movies would have turned Rollie and Andy’s friendship in to a forced romantic thing, but instead F/X uses their easy rapport and familiarity from years of working together to make it extremely believable that Rollie, with some assists, can save himself and conquer the bad guys.

Patrick: Great call on that Runyon/Barnes hybrid. I like Andy’s relationship with Rollie a lot, but I still can’t figure out why most of her dialogue seems to have been looped. I remember being a kid and loving that whole ending sequence because he defeats a bunch of armed goons with the POWER OF SPECIAL EFFECTS. I would have totally understood if this movie did nothing for you, but the fact that you loved it only makes me love you more.

Erika: It did lots for me. I already added it to my 2019 Favorite Discoveries list. And Bryan Brown was in it, so I had the opportunity to make some Cocktail jokes while we watched it. Do you still love me sooo much?

Patrick: Always. Even more. Next we watched Peggy Sue Got Married, which you thought you had seen but hadn’t and which makes me totally think of my mom.
Erika: I think I’d sung “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly so much during my childhood that I somehow thought I’d experienced all things with that name in the title. I was wrong, but I am so glad I got to see it now. In addition to the Back to the Future and Blast from the Past vibes, I loved so much about this film! It was incredibly easy to watch and fall into -- to just feel like we are there with Kathleen Turner visiting 1960. You know, I was sooooo intent on donating blood once I turned 18 at my high school’s blood drive, and I too passed out. I didn’t travel back in time, though. And I have not yet reached the age for a 25th high school reunion, so there’s no telling what would happen if they wheel out a cake and crown a new "reunion king and queen." This does not happen in real life, right?.

If I have any quibbles about this film -- and it’s really just a small one -- it’s that, since it focuses on Peggy Sue’s experiences and thoughts, it leans towards her having to ‘fix’ things in her life a little more than I think was needed. But I like how she’s given the chance to understand more about herself and those around her (wouldn’t that opportunity/hindsight be a gift?). I would have liked for Nicolas Cage’s character to be a tad more likable. Maybe I’m being too picky -- he is a high schooler in the flashback scenes after all, and who was perfectly mature and polished in high school?

Patrick: Well, you. But that’s a short list.

Erika: Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling wrote this film together (not their only joint project), which I love. The movie deals with nostalgia and relationships and regrets and second chances, and when I found out that a married couple (they are still married today!) wrote the screenplay, I think I audibly responded, “Of course!” as the movie - while dealing in a bit of fantasy - does hit a bunch of the right realistic notes when it comes to life, love, and learning. You know. The three Ls.
Patrick: I feel like Peggy Sue gets so overshadowed by Back to the Future (which, to be fair, overshadows ALL movies) that it doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. It’s a really lovely movie. I get what you’re saying about her character trying to fix things, and one of the things I like about PSGM is (spoilers) that none of that really matters. This isn’t a BttFII scenario, in which any slight change she makes in the past has a ripple effect on her future. Nothing about her life or the world has changed when she comes back to 1986, but she has. She has a greater understanding and appreciation for her life, though not necessarily in that Dickensian “I have seen some shit” way. More like “You can’t go home again.”

Erika: Right on. I’m glad their photos didn’t start fading away.

I’m guessing our readers have seen most of what we discussed this week, but if not, I hope they will seek them out! Perfect for 1986 week or any time, really. Your 48 hour marathon is packed with great suggestions, too. I’d love to hear from anyone else discovering new 1986 favorites this week. (Note: we also re-watched Something Wild, Manhunter, The Golden Child, My Chauffeur, At Close Range, and True Stories this past week. If we didn’t have an abundance of incredible 1986-themed pieces coming in this week from our terrific FTM writers, I’d say we could do “Shelf Life: 1986 Part 2!” Instead, I’ll watch more movies.


  1. It's fine that I haven't seen any of these movies. I appreciate this column for being so adorable.

    1. You can watch them this weekend. But not on Saturday. You are booked for Saturday. <3

    2. And we appreciate you for reading it. xoxo

  2. I'm here for any mention of One Crazy Summer, my favorite of the three movies playing at the drive-in my brother took me to (the others were Back to School, which was alright, and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, which was on the screen behind us, and which I was too scared to look at).