Friday, May 17, 2024

Comfort Movie Marathon: 1980s

by Anthony King
Come snuggle with me!

Work has been beating me like a drum lately. The last thing my brain wants to do at night or on the weekends is pick something new to watch. I bet we’ve all felt like this, and it’s times like these when we just want to watch something comforting. For TV shows I turn to Bob’s Burgers, Will & Grace, Arrested Development, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. For movies I tend to turn to things I watched when I was younger, or at least movies that came out when I was younger. So for the bad days ahead and behind, here is my '80s comfort movie marathon.

Adventures in Babysitting (1987, dir. Chris Columbus)
We kick things off with possibly my favorite childhood movie and the first Columbus joint. I don’t know any boy who didn’t have a crush on Elisabeth Shue from this movie. Heck, I still have a crush on Elisabeth Shue in this movie (or any movie, frankly). Adventures in Babysitting has one of the all time great openings, with Shue's Chris dancing around in her bedroom to The Crystals' “And Then He Kissed Me.” After her boyfriend lets her know they're not going out on their big date, Chris begrudgingly takes a gig to babysit the Anderson kids. While Chris drives the family station wagon to the Anderson's, Percy Sledge's “Just Can't Stop” blasts over the soundtrack. While I love every character in this movie, it's really the music that first captured my love I think. From Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, to Albert Collins, every track is killer. And you know we love a Chicago movie here at FTM, and this is one of the best.

Dirty Dancing (1987, dir. Emile Ardolino)
We stay in 1987 but travel back to 1963 for another movie with a killer soundtrack. This movie reminds me of nights spent at my cousins' house while our parents played cards. While I crushed hard on Chris in Adventures in Babysitting, in retrospect I see my queerness peeking through as a child because I realize I crushed hard on The Swayz in Dirty Dancing. Johnny was the absolute definition of cool to me. The hair, the arms, the smile, the moves. The Swayz had it all. The voice, too! Like almost all the movies in this marathon, it is categorically impossible for me to view these movies in any sort of objective manner. My love flows deeply for all of them, but probably most deep for Dirty Dancing. And by the way, this is a summer camp movie, and I'll hear no other arguments about it.

Mannequin (1987, dir. Michael Gottlieb)
Clearly the year I turned five was a big year for me, movie wise, because we're staying in 1987 for the third movie in my comfort marathon. During a recent rewatch of Mannequin after which I hadn't seen the movie in decades, I realized it's not the best. It was a hard pill for me to swallow. Nevertheless, the nostalgic feelings overtook my critical feelings and I allowed myself to be transported to overnights at Prince and Company with Jonathan and Emmy. I remember as a kid being blown away by the realization that Estelle Getty was in fact an actor and not actually Sophia Petrillo. Mannequin has it all: a lovable good guy, comically despicable bad guys, and one of the sexiest women to ever live. Even at five or six I finally discovered what “sexy” meant, and it meant Kim Cattrall. Even though I could see the flaws in Mannequin, I still found Andrew McCarthy to be cool, James Spader and G.W. Bailey to be hysterical, and Meshach Taylor to be an icon.

Tootsie (1982, dir. Sydney Pollack)
In my 52/82 series a couple years ago, Tootsie came in at number two in my rankings (read my article here). It was my first time seeing the movie, and has remained the only time I've watched it, but the way I felt while watching it is still palpable. I listen to the soundtrack frequently and am immediately enveloped in this sense of warmth. Mr. Mom (1983), a movie barely bumped out of this line-up, was something that was seemingly always on when I was kid. Whatever unexplainable, comforting feeling I get from Mr. Mom is the same feeling I got when watching Tootsie. The characters are people I loved spending time with. Michael Dorsey, while a low-key dirtbag, is still lovable. Along with Bernadette Peters, Teri Garr was my first childhood crush. Add in Geena Davis and Jessica Lange and I could barely contain my lust while watching this.

Working Girl (1988, dir. Mike Nichols)
Mike Nichols had a way of making unlikely comforting movies. To incite another Hoffman, The Graduate (1967) is about the uncertainties of life with an unforgettably uneasy final shot, yet its setting feels like home. Closer (2004) is probably an island on which I stand alone, but it's about horrible people fucking each other over, and if you know me, you know I love watching horrible people fuck each other over. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) is a psychological horror mind fuck of a movie yet I feel at home in George and Martha's cottage. Carnal Knowledge (1971), Heartburn (1986), even Angels In America (2003), all comforting to me. And then there's Working Girl, with its big hair, its New York City, its stacked cast. Working Girl is by far the '80-est movie in this marathon and its charm wields a special power over me.

Risky Business (1983, dir. Paul Brickman)
We close things out with a one-crazy-week movie with two star-making performances. While many kids related to the Brat Pack and the bevy of movies starring that gang, I gravitated to Tom Cruise as Joel Goodson. Tom Cruise may be the biggest movie star of my generation with good looks and charm to spare, but in 1983 he easily fit into this role of an everyday nerd-type who wants to explore the world but quickly gets in over his head. Although the John Hughes characters and Joel Goodson are all rich Chicago suburb kids, the Hughes kids are so unrelateable; they're almost caricatures. Joel Goodson, with his too-on-the-nose name aside, was a kid I knew. I was friends with him. I was more the Bronson Pinchot than the Curtis Armstrong, but I was still friends with Joel. Whereas the Hughes characters feel more Hollywood than Midwest, the Brickman characters feel way more Midwest than Hollywood. I'd seen this once or twice a teen in the '90s and immediately found comfort in it. As foolhardy as it sounds, I saw myself and my friends for the first time as a teen in a movie (minus the whole Rebecca De Mornay of it all). Then, after having not seen it for decades, I watched the Blu-ray recently and found the same solace I'd found back then. It was a strange feeling, but I knew that feeling, and it was a cozy blanket. And thus concludes my '80s comfort movie marathon. We began in Chicago, and we end in Chicago.

1 comment:

  1. And everyone's hair looks like a beautiful, fluffy, comfortable pillow. I write this all the time, but Johnny in Dirty Dancing is one of my favorite male movie characters of all time. His monologues are so realistic and vulnerable.