Friday, March 31, 2023

Notes on Film: Embrace the Elderly

 by Anthony King

Happy Birthday, Patrick.

I thought long and hard (90 seconds) for a topic this week. Two things popped into my head: we celebrated Patrick's 74th birthday a few days ago (he looks fabulous for his age, doesn't he?), and, of course, a tweet. After becoming sober I embraced the “one day at a time” mentality: the principle that we only focus on the time at hand – not the future, or the past. While this is great advice for living one's life, this is terrible advice for watching movies. We look ahead at the release calendar, and we (should) watch old movies. Thus, this week's topic. So we'll begin there and head to the very recent past and look at what I've watched recently.
I have finally and officially begun work on the long-in-the-works Neon Badges book. The thought of writing a book, especially a film guide, is daunting to say the least. Where do I begin? What movies do I include? The questions pile up until I throw my hands in the air and shout, “I'll do it later!” Later has come, friends. I have a plan, and that plan includes watching movies and then writing briefly about them immediately following. Two of the five '80s cop movies I watched this week were shit, one isn't worth writing about here, and one will be getting a proper review from yours truly next week due to an upcoming Blu-ray release. The other may very well end up on my year end discoveries list. That movie is the feature-length pilot of Miami Vice called "Brother's Keeper," directed by Thomas Carter. I remember watching Miami Vice reruns on the USA Network on Friday nights with my dad, so this show holds a special place in my heart. Originally airing on September 16, 1984, this made for TV movie opens cold in New York City with Rico Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) running surveillance on drug dealers from his car. We then shift down to Miami and find Sonny Crockett working undercover. After Tubbs trails his mark down south in the land of Crockett, the twain doth meet and strike up a reluctant partnership before becoming fast friends. Between Carter's sure hand in the director's chair, Michael Mann's heavy influence as the executive producer, and two lead actors whose charm is unmistakable, the show, but this TVM in particular, is insanely rewatchable. Two things really stood out for me here. 1.) The things that were allowed on network television in the '80s were truly baffling. While out to dinner, the detectives' date's return from the bathroom and say, “It’s a regular Hoover convention in there.” “I guess that’s why they call it the powder room.” At this point we're pretty desensitized to what we see and hear from television shows on streaming platforms and extended cable networks. But this was NBC during primetime. 2.) The needle drop of Phil Collins's “In the Air Tonight” paired with the neon-soaked atmosphere is one of television and cinema's greatest goosebump-inducing, move-to-the-edge-of-your-seat moments. It took everything in me not to jump up and start pumping my fist in the air while screaming, “LET'S FUCKING GO!” You can stream Miami Vice in its entire five-season run on Tubi.
One of the two '80s cop movies I watched that was straight up bad was the Filipino James Bond rip off sequel The Impossible Kid from 1982, starring little person Weng Weng. While the movie was terrible, I was intrigued by this actor and I discovered there was a whole documentary dedicated to him. Andrew Leavold's The Search for Weng Weng (2013) is about the director's obsessive curiosity about this little-known actor, and the lengths he goes to find out more about him. At the beginning of the documentary, Leavold was only aware of two films in which Weng Weng had appeared. By the end we learn that not only was Weng Weng in 10 films, he was beloved among the budding Filipino film community, which also included the President of the Philippines and his wife. The entire journey is eye-opening, heartbreaking, and made me appreciate the movie I had previously watched and immensely disliked. You can watch The Search for Weng Weng on Tubi.
Finally, I watched another documentary that had been years in the making. The Cog (2020) is about the Omaha DIY music club that hosted some of the most influential bands in punk, ska, and metal, and was the birthplace for most of the big name bands that came from Omaha (Cursive, Bright Eyes, Simon Joyner, etc.) Comprised of interviews of people who volunteered at The Cog Factory and old camcorder footage of shows, it's a trip down memory lane for this writer who spent many an evening there. The Cog Factory was by far one of the most disgusting shitholes I'd ever been in. The doc talks about the Cog goo that you would have to scrub from your shoes after you'd leave; the bathrooms that homeless people refused to use because shit would be piled above the toilet seats; the tetanus-ridden makeshift furniture; and the atrocious excuse for a sound system. But more than any of that it was a safe place kids like me who didn't belong anywhere else could go and hear some of my favorite bands. I saw bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Boy Sets Fire, Lawrence Arms, the Gadjits, and Voodoo Glow Skulls there before they were really known. The doc is a nice 40-minute history lesson about an Omaha music institution where I can see some of my friends talk about their memories of our home away from home. You can watch The Cog on YouTube.
Now to the topic at hand. Did you see the tweet from UberFacts? “What old movie (20+ years) still holds up today. I could hear the aneurysm forming in Daniel Epler's head when he read that tweet. The replies were even more ulcer-inducing. Jayson Slade said Training Day. Kanaca Nitsua replied, “Can't believe this is over 20 years old, wtf.” Other titles at the top of the replies included The Crow, The Lost Boys, The Beach, E.T., Hook, The Goonies, Twister, and Dumb and Dumber. The oldest movie from this small sampling is 41 years old. And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HOOK NEVER DID NOR WILL IT EVER HOLD UP! Every year I share my top discoveries list in which I employ the Brian Saur rule: anything released before the year 2000 counts. Since I've been keeping track of such things (in 2017) I've had three movies from the '90s appear on a discoveries list (Bringing Out the Dead, The Ice Storm, and The Daytrippers). The rest are from the '80s and beyond.

This isn't to toot my own horn by any means. I write this column and do podcasts for one purpose: to bring attention to movies I think are interesting. I think I can safely assume I don't have any regular readers of my column under the age of 30. (If you're out there let me know!) On the same token, I assume any regular readers/listeners of mine aren't averse to older movies. But on the off chance that there's that one Zoomer out there that likes to listen to me ramble on every week, I hope and pray that person discovers something great that was released decades before they were even a glint in their parents' eyes. Now, as I attempt to be as open a book as possible, allow me to be transparent about my previous viewing habits. Here is a breakdown of my Letterboxd stats of the most movies I've seen according to their release date.

2019 (109 films) – I have an excuse: I was a judge at a film festival the previous year.
2018 (101 films) – The year of said film festival.
2017 (96 films) – It wasn't even a great movie year, so your guess is as good as mine.
1982 (91 films) – Did you follow along with my 52/82 series last year?
1983 (80 films) – Hello 2023 FTM Fest!
Trust me, I see the irony here: me being such a proponent of older cinema and classic movies, yet my top three years are about as recent as you can get. In previous columns, I've written about hardly watching any new movies, but apparently that was just something I started in the 2020s. And now one of my movie goals is to watch as many new releases as possible. Folks, I'm a conundrum. An enigma. Wrapped in a riddle. I don't even understand me. The point is the movies we see today owe everything to the movies that came before, and the movies that came before them, ad infinitum. I'm sorely lacking in my having watched movies from the '20s. The '30s, '40s, and '50s also need lots more work on my behalf. It's simple math, really. The more classic movies we watch, the more we'll find to like, which means we'll have even more to recommend. Viva la classic cinema, and happy birthday Patrick!


  1. I'd be curious how many movie Mr Bromley and the crew watch every year?

    I know i averaged about 2 movies a day for 2 straight years (sometimes no movies, sometimes 6 movies in a day, usually saturdays), a while ago. Some of them were the same movie 2-3 times that year, but that's still count as watching a movie. It was a great time, but that's too many movies.

    1. I try to watch at least one movie a day. I’m lucky to have a job on the weekends that allows me to watch about four per shift. But between podcasts and writing almost everything I watch is for something.

  2. 25 years old and a regular reader of the column!