Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Pretty Good Film

by John Holbo on September 28, 2013

So I’m doing this thing where I rewatch 80’s Hollywood blockbusters, for science. John Hughes. Disappointing. Ghostbusters holds up. But that’s Bill Murray. (You know, I was watching Ted Cruz’ speech – well, bits of it. And I thought to myself: why am I even able to watch this for a second? I think the answer is: he looks a little like Bill Murray. The eyebrows.) Beverly Hills Cop. Unwatchable. Die Hard. Damn good, after all these years. And on and on, for the sake of science. Finally I got to Raiders of the Lost Ark. On Blu-Ray. I was so looking forward to this one. Haven’t watched it in 20 years. I was sure it was going to be, just as I remembered it, a perfect gem. A love letter to the pulps. The Platonic Form of summer blockbuster fun. It knows what it wants to be, and it is that thing, and that’s fine. And just enough comedy to go with the action. A perfect role for Harrison Ford. Spielberg is a great director. And – it turns out to be … just good. Not great. Dammit. I didn’t love it anymore! Where has my love gone!

I confessed to my friend. Together we had worshiped this film when it came out. He was horrified. No! Raiders is perfect! What action film could be better than Raiders? Ever! What have you done with the real John Holbo?

I thought about it and said I liked Wreck-It Ralph and The Croods way better this year. They’re action films, but put together better.

Those are kids movies, not action movies! And it’s evil and wrong to suggest they could hold a candle to Raiders!

Who was right?

I could list my complaints about Raiders. (Really, it’s fine. I enjoyed it. It’s just not great.) But I’m more curious what you think. Does Raiders have the high status it does because it is, absolutely, a great action movie? Or is it just one of several films – George Lucas, I’m looking at you – that are classics because they enjoyed first-mover advantage. They helped define what this thing is – the summer action blockbuster. Everyone says George Lucas got worse. He didn’t get worse. He just didn’t get any better.

You know another one I watched? Just as a ringer? Excalibur! Worst Merlin ever. You keep expecting to hear ‘ba-pa-pum-ba-ba-pum-pum/ ba-BAH-pa-pum-ba-ba-pum-pum’, then wishing you actually would hear it.

{ 342 comments }

1

John Holbo 09.28.13 at 2:58 pm

It just occurred to me. Is it going to seem like I posted this to distract people from men eating menstrual pads?

2

JRoth 09.28.13 at 3:04 pm

Sorry, John, I can’t read you over the sound of munched menstrual pads.

3

ezra abrams 09.28.13 at 3:04 pm

I don’t know how old you were when you 1st watched it, but didn’t you notice the racist stereotyping of non Europeans as stupid and evil and slow ?
Not to mention, what always looked to me to be a giant glitch near the end when H Ford jumps off the ship to follow, in the open ocean, a submerging submarine ?
Fully dressed ?

4

Matt 09.28.13 at 3:05 pm

I suspect that if they ever come out with a new Indiana Jones movie he’ll be fighting the men-eating menstrual pads. That would probably still be an upgrade from that last one.

5

Martin 09.28.13 at 3:11 pm

Mister Plinkett would disagree with the notion that Lucas didn’t get worse, a lot.

http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/

6

Ben Alpers 09.28.13 at 3:24 pm

Slightly OT, but have any of y’all rewatched AMERICAN GRAFFITI recently? I’ve always thought of it as Lucas’s best film (thus lending credence to the he-got-worse thesis), but I haven’t seen it since the ’80s (when it used to play often in repertory film theaters…remember those?). I now realize that I have no idea whatsoever whether ot not it holds up.

7

Cleanthes 09.28.13 at 3:25 pm

What are you guys doing discussing George Lucas’ old films? Don’t you realize that there are men-eating menstrual pads on the loose?

8

Peter Hovde 09.28.13 at 3:26 pm

So I’ll just take the opportunity to post this classic again:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/back-from-yet-another-globetrotting-adventure-indiana-jones-checks-his-mail-and-discovers-that-his-bid-for-tenure-has-been-denied

“Though Dr. Jones conducts ‘field research’ far more often than anyone else in the department, he has consistently failed to report the results of his excavations, provide any credible evidence of attending the archaeological conferences he claims to attend, or produce a single published article in any peer-reviewed journal.”

9

Hector_St_Clare 09.28.13 at 3:27 pm

Ezra Abrams,

The major villains in the film are a bunch of Germans and a Frenchman.

10

stubydoo 09.28.13 at 3:32 pm

I am also a big time fan of the movie, though I have always considered it to be a children’s movie. That kind of pulp adventure narrative, is just not the fare of grown up material. Spielberg and Lucas made no attempt to add any extra layers of subtlety (nor have they generally in their other films). It’s like if one of the better James Bond movies has all of the irony shaken out of it – you end up right in the wheelhouse of a certain kind of (very young) fan, and your ability to appreciate it is dependent either on you being such, or perhaps conjuring some of the essence of your past self for a couple of hours.

11

Phil 09.28.13 at 3:34 pm

How old where you when Raiders came out? For me it was so glaringly obvious what Lucas was trying to do, and what he was trying to do was so lacking in intrinsic interest anyway, that I couldn’t take any of it seriously & consequently missed the actual moments of wit & invention. I think I’d enjoy it very slightly more now.

Same thing only more so with the Star Wars films, although I did see those in the wrong order – I refused outright to see Star Wars itself when it came out, then let a friend drag me along to TESB (“OK, OK, we’re just going to see a big dumb movie…”) and got completely blindsided by the odd bits of irony and darkness and quiet that sneaked into that film. Normal service was restored both times by the sequels – Temple of Doom and Return to the Planet of the Teddy-Bears – which just stank.

I was 17 when Star Wars came out and 21 for Raiders, and much more serious-minded than I am now. But I still feel like asking anyone who raves about George Lucas or Spielberg whether they’ve seen anything by Buñuel or Polanski or Hitchcock or Lindsay Anderson or Powell & Pressburger or… I mean, there are some good films out there, and it’s never too late to start catching up (I only saw The Magnificent Ambersons last year myself).

12

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 3:39 pm

The Eighties sucked. The music sucked, the movies sucked, Reagan sucked, and the hair sucked. But at least the hair gives you an instant tip-off to change the channel. Raiders only seems OK to some people because the hair isn’t Eighties hair, but it sucks, too.

13

Horvendile 09.28.13 at 3:42 pm

I didn’t love it when it came out. I always found much of it pointless and the premise stupid. Nazis who are committing genocide on the Jews believe in the Jewish God and holy objects but someone thing they can fool God into helping them? And the Ark would give Germany a huge advantage in WWII but it couldn’t help Israel hold off Egyptians armed with chariots. The one part I loved was Indiana simply shooting the guy with the pistol. I wanted to shout, why does nobody in the rest of the movie do that?

14

AcademicLurker 09.28.13 at 3:43 pm

I personally think Raiders holds up well due to near perfect pacing. It barrels along at breakneck speed but never really seems rushed.

Other virtues:

Harrison Ford and Karen Allen as Indy & Marion really nailed the screwball comedy style rapid back and forth dialog in a way that no subsequent Indy film managed.

I think it hits a good balance between cartoonish and (somewhat) realistic violence (is it my imagination, or was it unusual, prior to Raiders, for the hero of an action movie to spend so much time getting the crap kicked out him?).

While this is true of other films in the series as well, the character of Indy himself, as played by Ford, really works. Ford has an impressive ability to seemlessly shift back and forth from badass hero to desperate in-over-his-head improviser to slapstick pratfalling clown all while seeming to be a single coherent character.

In the same vain as the above, the comic bits and action bits are well matched and never clash with or undermine each other. Other films have managed this, but I think Raiders does a particularly good job.

Kicking Nazi butt is always fun.

15

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 3:46 pm

A group of my friends and I are trying to watch the American Film Institutes Top 100 films and Raiders of the Lost Ark is on the list. After rewatching the film I would agree with you in a way John. It is a great movie that is weakened by a slow pace and a dragging middle section. I find this a common fault of a lot of older movies. The tastes if modern audiences have changed in a way that makes a large number of “classic” movies seem plodding. Still it was fun to rematch and see Harrison Ford at his charismatic best plus the score is fantastic.

/You are 100% wrong and 0% right about Beverly Hills Cop. I rewatched that one recently Eddie Murphy is fantastic as Axel Foley. The actions sequences are dated but if you view the movie as a showcase for Murphy’s improvisation/riffing skills it totally holds up. Plus again it has a fantastic sounds track.

16

Andrew Burday 09.28.13 at 3:52 pm

I don’t know the answer to the specific question about Raiders, but generally I don’t think you’re giving enough credit for originality. That probably applies to Raiders, definitely applies to Lucas. Recycling a good idea until it became weak schtick represented decline, not holding steady. If you think about great films — (the original) Nosferatu, (the original) Cat People, Night of the Hunter, Seven Samurai are coming to mind, but nothing I’m saying depends on the examples — they all have to be watched with a degree of sympathy. Special effects, fight choreography, and other techniques have all gotten better. Cultural attitudes have changed (e.g. toward Freudianism in Cat People). Directors try original ideas that may or may not work (the cutaway house sequence in Night). If you watch any of them with an attitude of “what would I think if it had come out yesterday”, you’re going to underrate them.

I don’t know if this applies to Raiders, which I haven’t seen in ages. Ezra’s point, which is not anachronistic, deserves to be taken seriously too. But be sure you’re giving enough points for originality.

Now back to your regularly scheduled man-eating lady parts, or whatever it was.

17

Doctor Memory 09.28.13 at 3:56 pm

“Nazis who are committing genocide on the Jews believe in the Jewish God.”

Technically, just about every group of people who have attempted repression or genocide on Jews in the last few millennia have believed in the Jewish God.

18

Pub Editor 09.28.13 at 4:26 pm

I would like to second every point that AcademicLurker makes @ 13. In particular, Raiders does the best job of pacing and tempo of any of the Indiana Jones films, and better than most action films. Just the right amount of comedy mixed in, without so much as to become cartoonish. (See, e.g., Crystal Skull. Actually, don’t see it.)

ezra @ 2: in a cut scene, Indiana supposedly lashes himself to the periscope or the radio transmitter. Not a perfect solution, admittedly. It’s worth bearing in mind that diesel-powered German U-boats spend most of their time not submerged; they needed air to power their main diesel engines. They ran on batteries when submerged, but those batteries had limited capacity, so U-boats tended to submerge only shortly before engaging another vessel.

19

Pub Editor 09.28.13 at 4:30 pm

Also, Lucas did get worse, because he became infallible and omnipotent within his own little circle and company: once he got to the point where someone like Irvin Kershner or Lawrence Kasdan couldn’t rein him in anymore, we started to get abominations like Jar Jar.

20

Ronan(rf) 09.28.13 at 4:31 pm

Yeah, I agree with MPAVictoria, Beverly Hills Cop is still.. amazing (?)
Yep I’ll stick with amazing

21

Ronan(rf) 09.28.13 at 4:35 pm

As are the Lethal Weapon quadrology (IIRC) Much better than than the Die Hards (imo)

22

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.13 at 4:47 pm

“The Eighties sucked.”

No shit. But it actually started in the 70s, with Jaws.

23

valuethinker 09.28.13 at 4:50 pm

10 Phil

I would argue ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is a better film than ‘Star Wars’. OK it’s no long as fresh, and we lose all the allusions to Dune of the first one. But it has a story based on quite archetypal plot line (that is in fact the criticism of it, that the plot is lifted straight out of ‘Hero with 1000 faces’).

Leigh Brackett was an accomplished fantasy and science fiction writer *and* screenwriter (in particular ‘The Big Sleep’). TESB was her last script, and I think it was her light touch that made it so satisfying.

24

Doctor Science 09.28.13 at 4:53 pm

Phil @10:
But I still feel like asking anyone who raves about George Lucas or Spielberg whether they’ve seen anything by Buñuel or Polanski or Hitchcock or Lindsay Anderson or Powell & Pressburger or…

None of those directors, as far as I know, has made any movie that evokes sense of wonder: “a feeling of awakening or awe brought on by an expansion of one’s awareness of what may be possible; the primary emotional experience of reading science fiction.” Although I would say it’s only *one* of the primary emotional sf experiences, the other being conceptual breakthrough.

The Star Wars movies are much better at those than Raiders, but Raiders still has a bit of that flavor, of the world and its possibilities expanding as you watch. I’m not surprised that on re-watching you call it “pretty good but not great”, because that’s how I would rate it in my memory, too.

But how can you diss movies of the 80s, when they include “Brazil”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, and “Gallipoli”?

25

philosofatty 09.28.13 at 4:53 pm

When I was a kid, I would rewind and replay the opening sequence in which Indy retrieves the booby-trapped idol, and then attempt to reconceive its obstacle course out of household materials. I still think that sequence is a rare achievement even if the rest of the movie is somewhat parasitic on its excitement. Virtually all of the surf and turf type blockbusters since have attempted to recreate that sequence one way or another, but without any, to my knowledge, grasping on to a generational consciousness the way Raiders did. I guess you could say that’s just Raiders “getting there first” in a way, but that seems ungenerous.

26

valuethinker 09.28.13 at 4:54 pm

13 Academic Lurker

Good analysis. That’s precisely what does work with the film. The strong female character interplay, Harrison Ford’s mixture of hero and schlep, the ability to jump deftly between terror and humour. The baddies are really bad. The famous scene with the pistol (Ford was suffering too badly from Cairo belly to do the script scene where he pulls the swordsman down with a whip, so he ad libbed it). One could go on.

Probably the plot doesn’t hold up as well in retrospect as it did then, and the memory of the subsequent movies tarnishes the original, but it was a tour de force, for its time. A 1930s movie serial re-done with modern production values.

27

Anon 09.28.13 at 5:00 pm

@calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 3:39 pm “The Eighties sucked. The music sucked, the movies sucked, Reagan sucked, and the hair sucked.”

There is a meaningful sense in which every decade sucks: namely, in respect to the dominant popular culture. Though some suck more or less in that respect. But the only interesting measure of a decade is in its best and worst culture, not its dominant culture or the average of the two.

I’ll accept that the 80s are a lowpoint in movies–the 90s were an uneven recovery and the 00s a relative high. But I don’t agree that 80s popular music sucked: there were so many interesting, diverse, creative and talented, but low profile musicians, a variety that was greatly damaged in the 90s when the counterculture merged with the mainstream. Generally, the 90s win the suckiness in music award.

28

Phil 09.28.13 at 5:04 pm

Doctor Science – on the contrary, every one of them made films that rewired my mind as I watched, in ways Lucas couldn’t imagine doing.

29

bob mcmanus 09.28.13 at 5:24 pm

None of those directors, as far as I know, has made any movie that evokes sense of wonder

I think Powell & Pressburger do this in their own gentle magic way, in several movies. I Know Where I’m Going for instance is about the opening of possibilities, although in a more mundane fashion than Lucas or Spielberg. I actually think very little about Spielberg or Lucas.

Anno Hideki’s Gunbuster came out in 1988, if you are revisiting the 80s. 6 1/2 hour episodes, female action lead, time dilation a major plot point. Top 20 all time.

30

Substance McGravitas 09.28.13 at 5:26 pm

It is a great movie that is weakened by a slow pace

Wow. If you look at it alongside other action movies of the time prior it’s practically jittery.

I watched Bullitt again a while ago and was disappointed to find the car chases unbelievably boring.

31

Substance McGravitas 09.28.13 at 5:29 pm

a feeling of awakening or awe brought on by an expansion of one’s awareness of what may be possible

The end of Chinatown did that for me, but I didn’t really want it to be possible…

32

Ronan(rf) 09.28.13 at 5:32 pm

*cough* Robocop *cough*

33

Cranky Observer 09.28.13 at 5:34 pm

In terms of authenticity in action movies, a classmate who worked at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History in the 1970s and 80s told me the final scene – with the warehouse of crates full of potentially incredible cultural artifacts – was dead-on accurate.

Cranky

34

Doctor Science 09.28.13 at 5:38 pm

Phil:

I’m sure they did “rewire your mind”, but not, I think, in the boom de yada way. *That’s* sense of wonder.

I don’t know the others’ oeuvres all that well, but Hitchcock, at least, never gave me the boom-de-yada feeling. I’m not saying that’s the only criterion by which a movie *should* be judged, not at all — just that it’s one that’s important to *me*.

There is no such thing as a movie that’s objectively good, in the sense of “gives pleasure to everyone”. On the other hand, there are plenty of movies that are objectively *bad*, in that they give pleasure to *no-one*.

35

Johann Tor 09.28.13 at 5:44 pm

I re-wathced Excalibur recently and and thought Williamson stole every scene he was in. You might think that is feint praise, but come on – worst Merlin ever? Sam Neill’s was better?

36

Kiwanda 09.28.13 at 5:59 pm

But I still feel like asking anyone who raves about George Lucas or Spielberg whether they’ve seen anything by Buñuel or Polanski or Hitchcock or Lindsay Anderson or Powell & Pressburger or…

I still feel like asking anyone who likes cotton candy if they’ve ever tried steamed carrots, or chopped liver, or okra, or…..

37

Main Street Muse 09.28.13 at 6:14 pm

To John Holbo -OF COURSE you’re drawing eyes away from men eating menstrual pads – to be completely successful, you will need work on the headlines. ;-)

To Peter Hovde @7 – that made me laugh. Thank you!

To Phil @10 – Once can thoroughly enjoy Spielberg & Lucas – and even rave about them while still appreciating Buñuel or … or Hitchcock or Lindsay Anderson or Powell & Pressburger… (You are reminding me it’s time to introduce my son to Hitchcock movies – though I’ll wait on showing him Psycho – too totally terrifying when I watched it in college.)

However, I find it impossible to appreciate the child rapist Polanski. Can’t overlook that aspect of the artist… Chinatown (to me) is the achievement of a great screenwriter.

To Academic Lurker @13 – yes – spot on review! I like Raiders (love how they used his fear of snakes throughout the series) – I like Wreck-It Ralph. Can’t remember the Croods (sometimes I just fall asleep at movies with the kiddos – thought Croods was kind of boring.)

I know it predates the 1980s, but nothing beats Jaws for a summer blockbuster. Nothing. Transformed the market completely!

38

WEU 09.28.13 at 6:31 pm

“But I don’t agree that 80s popular music sucked: there were so many interesting, diverse, creative and talented, but low profile musicians, a variety that was greatly damaged in the 90s when the counterculture merged with the mainstream. Generally, the 90s win the suckiness in music award.”

The 80s saw the flowering of post-punk and the birth of indie rock: Gang of Four, Pixies, Talking Heads, The Fall, The Smiths, Hüsker Dü, The Housemartins, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain…

39

philosofatty 09.28.13 at 6:35 pm

I still feel like asking anyone who likes cotton candy if they’ve ever tried steamed carrots, or chopped liver, or okra, or…..

Nah, I object to this analogy. Polanski, Hitchcock etc. might be more sophisticated than Spielberg and Lucas, but it doesn’t follow that they are essentially more nourishing. Brian De Palma is arguably toward the “sophisticated” end of the spectrum, but that doesn’t stop Scarface from being widely “appreciated” as violent bro fantasy, and, for that matter, it’s not obvious that that’s an unintended appreciative stance.

40

Ronan(rf) 09.28.13 at 6:35 pm

The 90s were terrible for music *only* if we discount rap/hip hop etc. (Also, Oasis vs Blur – come on!)

41

Bruce Baugh 09.28.13 at 6:46 pm

John, I think this is one of those cases where context matters. If you were up for a pulp adventure fix in 1981, not much was competing for your attention and dollars. Was there anything much on screen between Raiders and the embarrassing Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, six years earlier? Not that I’m recalling. At any given time, semi-random selections of old-time pulp stuff would be available in paperback, and more if you lived somewhere with the right kind of junk-collecting used bookstore and/or access to sf convention dealer rooms. But compare that with the current situation, with huge swathes of the original stuff available, recent decades’ riffs like Warren Ellis’ easily available, a genuine market for various flavors of pulp in prose, Jess Nevins’ ongoing encyclopedic efforts (and his delightfully gonzo Strange Tales of the Century now, too), and so forth and so on.

Pulp became…well, not really plenary. But if you want a pulp fix, you can get a whole bunch of them. No one object d’entertainment has to carry all the enthusiasm a pulp fancier has lying around to invest in it.

In this regard, then, I’d say Raiders is much like Star Wars: yeah, a pretty good film that had the fortune and misfortune to become the vessel for outsized quantities of engagement.

42

MattF 09.28.13 at 6:49 pm

Oh, fer heaven’s sake. Maybe it took a decade or two to realize it, but the ’70’s was the peak of American movie making. Everything else looks dim in comparison.

43

Anon 09.28.13 at 6:51 pm

WEU @34: “The 80s saw the flowering of post-punk and the birth of indie rock: Gang of Four, Pixies, Talking Heads, The Fall, The Smiths, Hüsker Dü, The Housemartins, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain…”

Great list, many of the same ones I had in mind.

Ronan: “*only* if we discount rap/hip hop etc.”

Do you mean if we exclude them from consideration or if we fail to do so? I like rap, but I think I prefer 80s to 90s.

And sure, there are some great bands in the 90s, I just think there weren’t as many as in the 80s. I also think in the 90s their uniqueness and variety really suffered. Oasis and Blur are an interesting example. Britpop and indie in the 90s became more regimented, everything fell more squarely into broader styles: grunge, shoegaze, house, 60s revival, etc. Consider in contrast how hard it is to group WEU’s list above into easy categories.

44

MG 09.28.13 at 7:08 pm

I just saw “The Feelies” last night. So wonderful – they were great in the 80s and they still are fantastic now. Their original songs are wonderful but they have the ability to cover another song and make it their own.

And so as to not to totally derail from the OP, “The Feelies” played the high school reunion band in the movie “Something Wild” by Jonathan Demme, which I think has stood up well lo these many years.

45

Ronan(rf) 09.28.13 at 7:11 pm

I was just being a little hyperbolic Anon (I meant only if we exclude it does your statement stand, but tbh I think I agree with the gist of your comment – i dont think Oasis/Blur have held up that well over time, in the grand scheme of things)
But, without knowing a huge amount about rap, I have to disagree with you re 80s being better than the 90s.
Lyrically, no generational genre comes even close to matching the rappers from the 90s (even the ones who found mainstream success – Wu Tang, Nas, 2Pac etc) Dylan, Guthrie, The Stones, all shrink in comparison
I would say as well, when looking at music from the 90s/00s you have to take seriously techno, house, electro etc when coming to any conclusions..

46

Sancho 09.28.13 at 7:16 pm

A tangent: toward the end of Die Hard, McClane bursts through a door shoots an Asian bad guy sporting a pony tail.

That guy, or rather that actor, has been shot in dozens of action films and spoken hardly any dialogue. His entire career appears to be built on playing anonymous cannon fodder for action heroes.

Performers should be congratulated for surviving on their art, whether that’s by selling out completely or grinding through bit work and never gaining fame. Hope the guy writes a book.

47

Sancho 09.28.13 at 7:19 pm

48

Main Street Muse 09.28.13 at 7:27 pm

To Mattf “Oh, fer heaven’s sake. Maybe it took a decade or two to realize it, but the ’70′s was the peak of American movie making. Everything else looks dim in comparison.”

What? Seriously? 70s movies outshine Hud, The Searchers, Rear Window, Psycho, Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, West Side Story, Raging Bull, All About Eve, Lawrence of Arabia, It’s a Wonderful Life, Sunset Boulevard, Seven Samurai, 400 Blows, To Kill a Mockingbird, most Chaplin flicks, Lion King, to name a few?

There is no “greatest decade.” Only great movies – and all decades have great movies.

Now if you’re talking about best years – that would be 1939, which gave us Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninontchka, Of Mice & Men, and of course, Andy Hardy gets Spring Fever.

Or it could be 1950, which gave us Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, Rashomen, Born Yesterday, Rio Grande, Asphalt Jungle, and Cinderella.

49

Phil 09.28.13 at 7:33 pm

the final scene – with the warehouse of crates full of potentially incredible cultural artifacts – was

lifted straight out of Citizen Kane, a film by another director capable of inspiring awe while also putting beauty on screen *and* having something to say. Welles v Lucas is Michael Crichton v Dickens.

Lucas and Spielberg are entertainers – competent and literate entertainers, but that’s the limit. Great film-makers do so much more.

50

Phil 09.28.13 at 7:35 pm

I *knew* I’d get that comparison the wrong way round. Damn iPad.

51

Anon 09.28.13 at 7:45 pm

@44: “Or it could be 1950, which gave us Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, Rashomen, Born Yesterday, Rio Grande, Asphalt Jungle, and Cinderella.”

That is indeed a hell of a year.

52

Anon 09.28.13 at 7:46 pm

Ronan: “Lyrically, no generational genre comes even close to matching the rappers from the 90s (even the ones who found mainstream success – Wu Tang, Nas, 2Pac etc)”

Lyrically, I’ll buy that. Musically, I really don’t have enough knowledge of either decade to judge overall, so you could be right. Likewise with techno, etc.

53

sean matthews 09.28.13 at 7:51 pm

I really have to disagree – like some others here – about Beverly Hills Cop, which definitely does not suck. Axel Foley’s effortless superiority over everybody native to LA, be they cop or robber, is still perfect. And the combination of Foley’s improvisation in the film, and Murphy’s improvisation in making the film, are also a pleasure.

The follow-ups, however, were dreadful at the time, and have only gotten worse with age. As are all the other movies by the two coke-head producers, whose names I cannot manage to remember.

54

Random Lurker 09.28.13 at 7:56 pm

The bestest movie of the 80es is certainly “Big trouble in Little China”.

– Ready, Jack?
– I was born ready.

55

Tim Walters 09.28.13 at 8:13 pm

Two Eighties adventure movies that are quite a bit better than Raiders: Romancing The Stone and Tremors. (And I think Raiders is decent.)

56

DaveL 09.28.13 at 8:14 pm

I saw Raiders on the first or second day after release, and the same for Star Wars.

What I remember about Raiders that was totally new and unique was the continuous action and danger. Yes, there had been millions of feet of film with action and danger, but after the opening sequence we were stunned, and then Indy gets in the plane and … snake on a plane! It went on from there, rarely slowing down, rarely turning the dial back from 11. That is why people loved it, I think. Now, when every movie is like that, it seems a little slow. We, for better or worse (the latter, I think) have come to expect it. Any movie any slower is “high brow” or “literary” or “a women’s picture” (probably with man-eating menstrual pads).

What I remember about Star Wars was its opening sequence, too. It said, in those little crawling bits of backstory, not what it said but rather “Here is the galactic adventure you SF fans have been wanting since you read the Lensmen stories: a complex fictional universe with mystery, adventure and most of all sensawonda. Enjoy!” And we did, because the first two episodes made good on that promise. No primitive teddy bears, no semi-aquatic Stepin’ Fetchits. Even one kickass female character. The funny thing is that except in occasional outliers, movies didn’t take that up. What they took up was more explosions, better special effects, but not sensawonda. Rats.

57

Barry Freed 09.28.13 at 8:26 pm

Now you have to buy it and read it Sancho.

What, no love for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension?

And Tremors is the best movie ever made.

58

Anon 09.28.13 at 8:37 pm

I still believe Better Off Dead is one of the greatest movies of the 80s. And Heathers. And Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I don’t know why two are about suicide. Maybe deep down the 80s knew it needed to die.

59

Nick 09.28.13 at 8:49 pm

I always found the religious/sacred aspects in Raiders skin-tingling (mostly in a good way). You’ve got the bit with the swastika being miraculously burned away, then you have the hero that shows some reverence to the artefacts (at the appropriate occasion) and reads dozens of esoteric languages. The hero as sort-of academic. Perhaps he made me who I am!

In Die Hard, the ideology seems to be pure, somewhat ironic, Reaganism with a no negotiation with terrorists (who aren’t even authentic terrorists, of course) message and a plot that shows the need for a masculine hero to save the supposedly liberated, office-working, wife.

60

Phil 09.28.13 at 9:13 pm

I don’t know the others’ oeuvres all that well, but Hitchcock, at least, never gave me the boom-de-yada feeling.

I found that jingle incredibly irritating & had to switch it off after about twenty seconds, but I think I know what you mean, and I think you should see more Hitchcock. And Kubrick. And have you seen Lawrence of Arabia? And Citizen Kane obvs, and I guarantee The Magnificent Ambersons will stop you in your tracks. There are some amazing films out there – don’t settle for the ones that don’t even aspire to deliver anything more than fun.

61

William Timberman 09.28.13 at 9:15 pm

True Confessions (1981). Blade Runner (1982). Terminator (1984). Spielberg is one of those acquired tastes that I never acquired, but I liked the Eighties just fine anyway.

62

Phil 09.28.13 at 9:16 pm

Oh, and +1 to Heathers. (Also Harold and Maude, while we’re feeling morbid.) But -1 to Tremors – Barry, that’s just weird.

63

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 9:22 pm

“As are the Lethal Weapon quadrology (IIRC) Much better than than the Die Hards (imo)”

Hmmm this is a tricky one. Die Hard is probably the best Hollywood action movie of all time. However, as a trilogy the Lethal Weapon series is probably stronger overall.

64

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 9:23 pm

“No shit. But it actually started in the 70s, with Jaws.”

Wrong wrong wrong.

65

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 9:27 pm

“The bestest movie of the 80es is certainly “Big trouble in Little China”.

– Ready, Jack?
– I was born ready..”

Hmmm close but for my money the greatest movie of the 80s has to be The Princess Bride. It is absolutely perfect throughout.

66

Alan 09.28.13 at 9:35 pm

“That guy, or rather that actor, has been shot in dozens of action films and spoken hardly any dialogue. His entire career appears to be built on playing anonymous cannon fodder for action heroes.”

In the spirit of more thread-meandering, this reminded me of one of my more cherished not-quite-major actors, Richard Jaeckel, who died in more movie roles than I can count. His death scene in Sometimes a Great Notion almost won him an Oscar (it should have).

I saw Raiders on its release date, and thought it lived up to its publicity-hype of an updated 40’s serial. Loved that drink-off competition–what a classic way to introduce a strong character into the script.

67

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 9:40 pm

Anon @24: “Generally, the 90s win the suckiness in music award.”

Just off the top of my head: Nirvana, The Chronic, Illmatic, Achtung Baby, R.E.M., A Tribe Called Quest, The Jayhawks, Lyle Lovett, Mary J. Blige, Siamese Dream, OK Computer, Live Through This, Play, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, The Slim Shady LP, Life After Death, Urban Hymns, Yo La Tengo, Wu Tang Clan, Odelay, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and Pavement. It was the best period for rock/rap/alt-country/what-have you since the early 70s.

Between London Calling and 1988 there was nothing but pop, worn-out 70s stars, and the other decade of R.E.M. Ptui.

68

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 9:44 pm

I think the saddest comment one can make of movies of the 80s is that Rob Reiner might well be the best director of the decade. I mean, I love Stand by Me, but come on.

69

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 9:48 pm

“Lyrically, no generational genre comes even close to matching the rappers from the 90s (even the ones who found mainstream success – Wu Tang, Nas, 2Pac etc) Dylan, Guthrie, The Stones, all shrink in comparison”

This sentence is obviously the product of a diseased mind. Plus you never mentioned the greatest lyricist of them all, Zevon.

70

shah8 09.28.13 at 9:50 pm

Any movie that aims to inspire sensawonda is always at risk of alienating the masses. Take Ripley in the construction mecha, laying the beat down on alien scum…You can’t really get any more sensawonda than that. There are other scenes and other movies, as well.

So for the most part, whenever I see people complaining about “sensawonda”, I think the chances are pretty good that there is a very narrow definition of sensawonda being applied by the speaker.

71

adam.smith 09.28.13 at 9:51 pm

Telling people to watch more Hitchcock, Kubrick, or Citizen Kane as if these are some closely guarded secrets is just silly. (FWIW, I enjoy Hitchcock, don’t care much for Kubrick and found Citizen Kane rather boring [though I can certainly see the artistic merit in both CK and Kubrick]).

Look, I think the best decade for music were the 20s (of the 18th century that is), which saw both major Bach Passions, Vivaldi’s best concertos (including the four seasons), as well as many of the prime works of high baroque, but I’m not going around telling the folks discussing music in the 1980s above that they’re “settling” for music that “just entertainment, when listening to Bach is, you know, so much deeper and life-changing. Why not? Because that would be pompous, ridiculous, and misguided all at the same time. As is telling people they’re missing out by not watching – or maybe not enjoying? – Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, or the Andalusian Dog.

72

SC 09.28.13 at 9:58 pm

I watched Heathers recently with my older kid and it worked for both of us. He asked “Hey, you were around in the 80s. Right? What movies did you watch. And don’t say Raiders.” and the _only_ one I could think of was Heathers so Heathers is now the 80s for him. He said “So, HS kids were meaner in the 80s? We can’t get away with that shit now. Bullying is out. Also, blowing up a school is frowned on. Croquet looks cool.”

I was hoping someone would mention Back to the Future I and II . . . I missed those but I’m mildly worried about seeing them now. (Yup, Ready Player One reminded me that I missed them.)

73

Main Street Muse 09.28.13 at 10:03 pm

LOVE Princess Bride!

And also love Harold & Maude. Introduced it to the children – they were confused…

74

Mitchell Freedman 09.28.13 at 10:04 pm

“Princess Bride” is the most quoted film in the US over the past thirty years. Various lines have entered our discourse almost the way “Casablanca” did for earlier generations in the US. It is an ’80s film. It is by Rob Reiner (ahem, “calling all toasters”).

Also, it’s amusing to read commenters talking only about their taste in music as if they are speaking with any objective music theory or authority. I like the Smiths, REM, Oasis, to take three examples, dislike almost all rap/hip hop, and…well, it’s all a matter of taste that does not even rise to the level of opinion. If, however, I speak about the Gershwins, Vaughan Williams, Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet, Gentle Giant, King Crimson or Kate Bush, I can choose to speak in the language of taste, or speak in terms of music theory. The latter is deemed boring in most places in America, and I find no difference between a NASCAR bar in Mississippi, Crooked Timber or The Nation when it comes to a discussion of music. All speak with an anti-intellectual perspective that casts snark and aspersions on anyone who attempts to use unusual time signatures, counterpoint or promote virtuosity in playing musical instruments.

75

adam.smith 09.28.13 at 10:04 pm

Recently watched a TV re-run of Back to the Future I. Holds up well – if anything the fact that a lot of 16 year olds today would hardly recognize some of the “modern” things in the movie – van Halen, the Walkman – adds to the effect.

76

Anon 09.28.13 at 10:06 pm

@63, calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 9:40 pm: “Nirvana, The Chronic, Illmatic, Achtung Baby, R.E.M., A Tribe Called Quest, The Jayhawks, Lyle Lovett, Mary J. Blige, Siamese Dream, OK Computer, Live Through This, Play, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, The Slim Shady LP, Life After Death, Urban Hymns, Yo La Tengo, Wu Tang Clan, Odelay, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and Pavement.”

Do you think this list is clearly better than WEU’s? There’s some great stuff here, but I’m not sure.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea could almost single handedly win it–it’s possibly the greatest album in the last 30 years. But variety and number count. Beck is definitely an important one. And we’d have to add Bjork, who I think is one of the consistently best musicians of the 90s.

But many on your list started in the 80s: U2, REM, Yo La Tengo. Many might belong, in spirit, to the 80s, like Pavement. Nirvana, of course, is deeply indebted to the Pixies, so maybe not a clear and distinct 90s band.

And I know it’s going to get me in trouble, but although I like Nirvana and Radiohead, I just don’t think they’re especially great bands. The real contender from Radiohead is Kid A, a 2000s album in letter and spirit.

77

SusanC 09.28.13 at 10:07 pm

As I was walking home just now, I passed a couple of kids in Star Wars costumes. They were aged around 8-10 or so, and with their parents, who were not in Star Wars costume. This shows the true greatness of Star Wars: 10 year olds still love it. Even if the 10 year olds who love it now are not the same people as the 10 year olds who loved it back then.

(Though goodness knows what it has done to the sexual expectations of the generations who have been influenced by it, what with “She’s your sister, Luke”, and all :-)) .

78

Steven Hart 09.28.13 at 10:07 pm

Re: Spielberg and the Eighties. An interesting time for the Boy Wonder. He consolidated his commercial standing with Raiders and E.T., then embarked on a program of artistic self-improvement as a director while as a producer he oversaw noisy junk that embodied the worst aspects of Spielbergism — The Goonies, Batteries Not Included, Amazing Stories, et al. His self-improvement movies are a decidedly mixed bag. Always and The Color Purple are truly embarrassing to watch, and portions of Empire of the Sun make you wonder if he even understands what’s happening in the story. But his subsequent work, whether in his commercial (Jurassic Park) or the prestige (Schindler’s List) modes, is significantly better.

79

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 10:11 pm

Mitchell Freedman @70:
““Princess Bride” is the most quoted film in the US over the past thirty years.”

William Goldman and Mandy Patinkin thank you for your support.

80

Ian Munro 09.28.13 at 10:14 pm

“I’ll accept that the 80s are a lowpoint in movies.”

I think this is only tenable if you’re talking about Hollywood. As someone who came of age in the 1980s, I loved the foreign (well, mostly British) movies that would come to my local arthouse cinema: My Beautiful Laundrette, Prick Up Your Ears, Letters to Brezhnev, Wish You Were Here, Local Hero, Mona Lisa, Gregory’s Girl, Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, My Left Foot, Betty Blue, A Room with a View, Maurice, Another Country, Tampopo, Babette’s Feast, plus others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. Perhaps not all of these would hold up if I rewatched them, but I thought it was a really exciting period in film.

There was plenty of good independent movie-making in the US then, too–although I’ll admit that I found Stranger than Paradise to be unwatchable when I tried a few years ago. (Down by Law held up better.)

81

Anon 09.28.13 at 10:14 pm

@70 Mitchell Freedman: “Also, it’s amusing to read commenters talking only about their taste in music as if they are speaking with any objective music theory or authority.”

I doubt anyone really means any of it that seriously, so I wouldn’t assume that. It’s just for fun.

And of course many smart, reasonable people believe that statements about matters of taste are not *entirely* subjective–that there are objective aspects to such judgments that can be reasonably debated (David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Danto come to mind, to start.)

There’s also the performative problem that while many profess to believe taste is entirely subjective, in practice we often do not consistently act in accordance with that belief. It’s easy to say taste is subjective, harder to sincerely say One Direction really is just as good as Beethoven.

82

MPAVictoria 09.28.13 at 10:20 pm

“I was hoping someone would mention Back to the Future I and II”

I watched BttF I recently with a group of friends and it totally holds up. Plus Michael J Fox is just so good in the role.

83

Anon 09.28.13 at 10:26 pm

+1 to Princess Bride.

@76, Ian Munro,

I’d forgotten Jarmusch! He made some great 80s movies, but I think I like his recent best (Broken Flowers, Limits of Control). Someone else mentioned Terry Gilliam (Brazil), who is another 80s movie treasure.

That’s a great list of movies, I enjoyed most of them. 80s art cinema was often very well crafted, written, and acted, but I think 50s, 60s, 90s, and 00s arthouse movies were a bit more inventive, edgy, surprising, and varied. (The 20s to 40s are great in other ways.)

84

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.13 at 10:27 pm

“I loved the foreign (well, mostly British) movies”

Yeah, but even there, I don’t think you’ll find anything nearly as good as O Lucky Man! or Le Magnifique.

85

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 10:37 pm

Anon@72: “Do you think this list is clearly better than WEU’s? There’s some great stuff here, but I’m not sure.”

Okey-dokey, here’s the list:
Gang of Four– really? People still listen to this?
Pixies and Sonic Youth– OK, good bands. I think they peaked in the late 80s, when a lot of 90s-ish music began (Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim).
Talking Heads– not an 80s band. Reamin in Light came out in ’79 or ’80, and they did nothing of note after.
The Fall, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, The Jesus & Mary Chain– I’ve heard of most of these bands, but never heard them. And I have pretty broad tastes.
The Smiths– don’t forget The Cure! Lovely, light music that people still like today, but not much in the way of artistic aspirations.
Hüsker Dü– I like upper Midwest noise rock OK, but these guys have faded with time.
The Housemartins– presumably this is a joke?

The list seems a little idiosyncratic, and shows a lot of favor for obscure bands. What 90% of people were listening to in the 80s were Michael Jackson, Prince, and Springsteen. The intellectuals listened to R.E.M. and U2. Most of these bands (except the Smiths) were like a tree falling in an unpopulated forest. It’s hard to celebrate a decade of unheard music.

86

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.13 at 10:39 pm

“I think the saddest comment one can make of movies of the 80s is that Rob Reiner might well be the best director of the decade.”

Well, John Carpenter made They Live, which was kinda 70s-like.

87

SusanC 09.28.13 at 10:51 pm

On the Nazis motives not making much sense in Raiders of the Lost Ark: (a) the whole film has the tone of comic book pastiche, so making sense is not really a requirement (b) the actual real-life Ahnenerbe did a bunch of stuff that didn’t make a lot of sense either, so Nazis as romantics with a shortage in the critical thinking department isn’t so implausible.

[If you’ve seen Anselm Kiefer’s Il Mistero delle Cattdrali, you can read it as a kind of highbrow Raiders of the Lost Ark for fans of Neo-Expressionism. It is not clear to me that Anselm Kiefer would be flattered by this comparison. And Albert Speer probably wouldn’t be amused].

88

dbk 09.28.13 at 11:01 pm

I dunno, I looked up the “great films of the 80s,” and in addition to those mentioned (Raiders, Back to the Future, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard – all of which I’ve seen, liked, and still occasionally watch when they’re rerun on late-nite tv), there were tons of films on the Top 100 I loved when they came out, and some I rewatch with pleasure.

War films: Good Morning, Vietnam/ Platoon (okay, only saw that one once) / Full Metal Jacket (which I saw for the first time 4 years ago, D’Onofrio’s breakaway role)

Social drama: Body Heat/ Kiss of the Spider Woman/ The Big Chill / Children of a Lesser God (I think I had a crush on William Hurt in the 80s) / Mississippi Burning (I rewatch this one every couple of years; still holds up extremely well)/ Scarface / The Untouchables (loved it then, still love it today)

Comedy: Blues Brothers (Ackroyd and Belushi; inimitable duo)/ Trading Places (I know, but hey)/ A Fish Called Wanda

Music: Footloose (since remade, but Kevin Bacon’s great in the original) / Flashdance (cult film for dance film groupies)

All-time favorite: Robocop. Because, Robocop.

So I’d say that for my own rather run-of-the-mill genre tastes, the 80s were a pretty good decade.

89

Bloix 09.28.13 at 11:03 pm

I have to say that this is an incredibly depressing thread. The eighties were a gigantic step backward in movie making – it was the decade that movies stopped being about people and started being about movies. The big 80’s directors – Lucas, Spielberg, De Palma – admitted that they didn’t care about making movies that had anything to do with life. All they cared about was mimicking the movies of the past – “homage” was the trendy term – using modern film technology. What they did was technically innovative and artistically staid, boring, and derivative. The seventies was one of the greatest decades in the history of American film- the eighties was, in film as in music and popular culture generally, a decade of exhaustion and regression.

It’s true that there were some good, innovative movies made (I’m talking about English language wide-release pictures): The Killing Fields; Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure; Do The Right Thing; The Fabulous Baker Boys; Local Hero; This is Spinal Tap; The Year of Living Dangerously.

And there were some excellent Hollywood genre films, showing that traditional themes could continue to be profitably mined: All of Me; An Officer and A Gentleman; Moonstruck; The Princess Bride.

But Raiders/Star Wars movies were a catastrophic blow to the heart for the future of Hollywood films: loud, frenetic, childish, badly acted, poorly plotted, overtly racist and sexist (and proud of it) and aggressively stupid. The very moral of Star Wars – repeated continuously so you can’t possibly miss the point – is that thinking is a very bad way to solve problems. And is there a more passive heroine in the history of movie-making than Marion Ravenwood? Oh, wait – how could I forget Princess Leia?

Seriously, is anyone on this thread also reading the several Belle Waring threads? Obviously John Holbo is. Can anyone who finds Jonathan Franzen unreadably sexist genuinely enjoy George Lucas? How can that be?

90

Anon 09.28.13 at 11:09 pm

callingalltoasters,

I suspect we’re not going to see eye to eye here, but we clearly run in different music circles, because everyone I know loves many of those bands’ “unheard music.” Of course, we’re all pretty damn old. But I’d add that every young serious music fan I know loves *some* of those bands, and many of the critically acclaimed bands of the last decade are heavily influenced by them. So, I think they’re less obscure than you imply. Again, may be the circles we run in, and I’m a music geek. (And of course many of the novels and films discussed here might seem obscure to many.)

For the record, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Springsteen are pretty damn great, too.

“Pixies and Sonic Youth– OK, good bands. I think they peaked in the late 80s, when a lot of 90s-ish music began”

Funny, I’ve been thinking in the exact opposite way: the early 90s belong to the 80s. For example, the Pixies put out two great albums in the 90s, but I give the 80s the points.

My reasoning here is degrees of influence. I think grunge and shoegazer are deeply rooted in 80s noise pop and britpop like Smiths and the Cure, so they don’t count as solidly as 90s. The 90s begin with aesthetic breakaway from that past: techno, hiphop, new britpop, house, crazy bits of everything people like beck.

“The Fall, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, The Jesus & Mary Chain I’ve heard of most of these bands, but never heard them.”

Oh, give them a try! The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Fall especially.

91

Anon 09.28.13 at 11:10 pm

Have people mentioned Aliens? It’s been awhile, but I thought that was a pretty good 80s movie.

92

Anon 09.28.13 at 11:17 pm

“The seventies was one of the greatest decades in the history of American film”

Bloix,

Could you say a bit more about why, and which directors you have in mind? My film-geek friends always tell me this, but I’m not convinced.

I find American 70s movies a bit too formulaic and forced in their attempts at gritty realism–the muted colors, the rough camerawork, the sweaty closeups, the usually unconvincing improvisational dialogue, the tendency to have a highbrow attitude while obsessing with the lowbrow world (cab drivers, prostitutes, mean streets, bickering middle aged couples, etc).

93

A guest 09.28.13 at 11:21 pm

Far from distracting from the Man-Eating thread, this one only makes more obvious the impression of a general tendency; a tendency which, pace a familiar line, CT comments are much like comments elsewhere. That is, they reveal a fixation with building up and tearing down ranked orders and canons. Whether grouped—arbitrarily—by decade, gender, genre each work becomes a hook upon which to hang generally vague suppositions about that decade, gender or genre. Any brief flickering of interest in particular qualities or the structure of the subject (Raiders‘ pacing, for instance) is very quickly drowned out by comma-cascades of proper nouns and loose, gestural allusions to “The 80s.” “Women writers.” Endless mincing about the degree of an Austen’s achievement, with only minor skirmishes about what might be found in it.

(A later post, which this multiline text box is too shallow to contain, will unpack the significance and ambiguity of Eddie Murphy’s grey glen plaid suit in 48 Hrs.)

94

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.13 at 11:26 pm

“loud, frenetic, childish, badly acted, poorly plotted, overtly racist and sexist (and proud of it) and aggressively stupid.”

Stupid, yes, and very, very boring. Even if you survive watching it, the next day you can’t remember anything. And that includes, for me, An Officer and A Gentleman and The Princess Bride. Moonstruck was okay. Compare with something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: that was so strong, it could change your life.

95

calling all toasters 09.28.13 at 11:34 pm

Anon@86: “the early 90s belong to the 80s.”
I think there was a sea change in ’88 that lasted until about 2000. Surfer Rosa and Teenage Daydream set the tone for hard/noise/grunge rock, and especially Cobain. Follow the Leader and It Takes a Nation of Millions… set the stage for Tupac, Dre/Snoop, TCQ, and Nas. The Trinity Sessions seemed to open the door for Lovett and Lucinda Williams.
I call that “90s music,” but I was never much on originalism :)

“Oh, give them a try! The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Fall especially.”
I will. You should try Illmatic, if you haven’t already.

96

Shatterface 09.28.13 at 11:38 pm

Slightly OT, but have any of y’all rewatched AMERICAN GRAFFITI recently? I’ve always thought of it as Lucas’s best film (thus lending credence to the he-got-worse thesis), but I haven’t seen it since the ’80s (when it used to play often in repertory film theaters…remember those?). I now realize that I have no idea whatsoever whether ot not it holds up.

Stands up brilliantly – but a lot of that is down to Walter Murch’s sound design. I’ve watched all of Lucas’s early movies, the early Coppola and a lot of the New Hollywood stuff recently and its the innovations in sound that blow me away. THX1138 is basically the 2001 of sound.

Lucas’ first three movies are basically the same story: young man agonising about leaving home realises it’s only himself holding him back. Hell, THX1138 tells that story three times…

97

musical mountaineer 09.28.13 at 11:41 pm

Is it going to seem like I posted this to distract people from men eating menstrual pads?

No, you don’t have to worry about that. I personally can never be distracted from eating menstrual pads, so it’s honestly a non-issue.

98

MG 09.28.13 at 11:43 pm

Help! Free my comment from moderation! Not that it’s so insightful but because it’s about the Feelies. Also, how does one get into moderation “jail”.

99

Shatterface 09.28.13 at 11:49 pm

Recently watched a TV re-run of Back to the Future I. Holds up well – if anything the fact that a lot of 16 year olds today would hardly recognize some of the “modern” things in the movie – van Halen, the Walkman – adds to the effect.

Back to the Future II is a real hoot because of the time paradoxes but it’s the scence in the 80s themed diner that raises the most laughs. Back in the Eighties they thought when we looked back at them from ‘the future’ (i.e. now) we’d remember it as the decade of idiot politicians (Ronald Reagan) and shit music (Michael Jackson). They kinda got that right but sadly we’re still waiting for the hoverboards…

100

bob mcmanus 09.28.13 at 11:49 pm

Seriously, is anyone on this thread also reading the several Belle Waring threads? Obviously John Holbo is. Can anyone who finds Jonathan Franzen unreadably sexist genuinely enjoy George Lucas? How can that be?

Well yeah, all the women condemning the macho guy stuff over there probably are not bothering here, because video ain’t literature or something.

Greatest artist of the 80s was Takahashi Rumiko, with a half-dozen masterpieces.

Biggest world visual event was probably the 279 episode Oshin exported to Iran and Turkey, written and directed by women.

101

musical mountaineer 09.28.13 at 11:50 pm

Eat menstrual pads and die, MG.

As you were.

102

Hector_St_Clare 09.28.13 at 11:52 pm

I loved ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. the other two were at least OK.

103

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 12:04 am

Bloix, Harrison Ford was fantastic as Indiana Jones. I have no idea how you can say he was a bad actor in those movies. He was born to play that role.

104

mds 09.29.13 at 12:07 am

What, no love for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension?

So what? Big deal.

I enjoyed Raiders a lot the first umpty-umpt times I watched it, but I haven’t revisited it in years now. I suspect that the mdslet will enjoy it when he’s old enough. “I don’t know; I’m making this up as I go.” Or the way Paul Freeman hisses “Jones!” to himself when something explodes for no obvious reason.

On the other hand, I consider Close Encounters of the Third Kind to be Spielberg’s best work. So take the above opinion with a grain of salt, ideally applied to a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.

105

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 12:08 am

“On the other hand, I consider Close Encounters of the Third Kind to be Spielberg’s best work. So take the above opinion with a grain of salt, ideally applied to a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.”

Ha!

106

js. 09.29.13 at 12:09 am

RE: The 80’s music discussion:

Look, I can see your Gang of Four and raise you Wire (tho the best regarded work by both is in the late 70’s), etc. etc., but you all are crazy, because:

This happened!

107

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 12:10 am

By the way I am surprised to see Mao posting in a thread that is so obviously not “crookedtimberish” as he so charmingly put it yesterday.

108

js. 09.29.13 at 12:21 am

“The seventies was one of the greatest decades in the history of American film”

Bloix,

Could you say a bit more about why, and which directors you have in mind? My film-geek friends always tell me this, but I’m not convinced.

I can’t speak for Bloix, but the “New Hollywood” stuff people often talk about is (and it is excellent) is stuff like Coppola’s The Conversation, a bunch of Scorsese/Altman/De Palma (very much a personal favorite), maybe some Pakula (The Parallax View is excellent, e.g.), maybe also Bonnie and Clyde, tho it’s not technically the 70’s. Oh, and Point Blank is one of my favorite films from that, or maybe any, era, and it kind of fits with the rest.

Generally, I think it’s fair to say that it’s darker, grittier, and with a lot of less redemption at the end than what went before. Also, it’s Hollywood directors imbibing some of the new visual styles and techniques of 60’s European film, esp. maybe Antonioni and the French New Wave. What’s not to like!?

109

Shatterface 09.29.13 at 12:21 am

What, no love for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension?

Too obviously an attempt to be a cult movie.

Many pre-80s movies became cults but the 80s was the decade when producers tried to manufacture them. Sometimes it worked – Repoman, Heathers, etc. – but usually we ended up with Troma-style crap.

The real cult movies of the 80s are the expensive commercial flops like Blade Runner and The Blues Brothers.

110

godoggo 09.29.13 at 12:25 am

The Blues Brothers was not a flop. Maybe you’re thinking of Neighbors.

111

Shatterface 09.29.13 at 12:25 am

On the other hand, I consider Close Encounters of the Third Kind to be Spielberg’s best work. So take the above opinion with a grain of salt, ideally applied to a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.

It was one of JG Ballard’s favourite movies – as was Mad Max 2. Now there’s an action movie!

112

Svensker 09.29.13 at 12:28 am

Two Eighties adventure movies that are quite a bit better than Raiders: Romancing The Stone and Tremors. (And I think Raiders is decent.)

Yes. Also, how can anyone say 80s movies are awful when there is Earth Girls Are Easy? A wonderful movie, which completely captures the 80s in L.A. Also, too, Beverly Hills Cop? Another wonderful movie. Just rewatched Ruthless People, as well, and while it has some flaws, I think it’s a really good comedy.

But I think Spielberg is a rotten director. His only bearable films, IMNVHO, are ones where he had a really strong story — Jaws, Jurassic Park — or had someone else working with him — Raiders I. Otherwise, he seems to have the emotional depth of a backward 8 year old.

113

Hektor Bim 09.29.13 at 12:29 am

Many of the 70s American films are unbelievably misogynist making them almost unwatchable.

114

P O'Neill 09.29.13 at 12:29 am

Not trying to derail the thread — that’s been done already — but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a 1982 film. Which probably just confirms whatever view you have about 80s movies.

115

Pete Mack 09.29.13 at 12:29 am

What’s funny about good 80’s music is it gets characterized as good 90s music: New Order is an 80s band. As are the bands of a lot of other LPs I’ve got left from college years.

John: I think you are overreaching with “great” vs “good.” There are very, very few
“great” movies. (Only one I can think of right now is “Passion of Joan of Arc,” 1928, with 1990s soundtrack.) It is more than enough for a movie to be both “good” and “seminal.”

116

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 12:38 am

“However, as a trilogy the Lethal Weapon series is probably stronger overall.”

I’ll go as far as say, as a trilogy, pound for pound, Lethal Weapon is better then the Godfather

117

trane 09.29.13 at 12:39 am

I really loved Raiders, and think it holds up just fine. The tempo is just great; compare with Die Hard 4 which is ridiculous.

Die Hard was really good but the ideology is somewhat irritating (and it just gets worse in numbers 2, 3, 4.

Both Raiders and Die Hard have GREAT bad guys. I mean, Major Arnold Ernst Toht…. A bad guy does not get better than that!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Toht#Toht

trane

118

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 12:43 am

How can 61 be so right but 65 be so wrong? How..

119

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 12:45 am

“All-time favorite: Robocop. Because, Robocop. “

Thank God you’re here dbk

120

calling all toasters 09.29.13 at 12:46 am

“I’ll go as far as say, as a trilogy, pound for pound, Lethal Weapon is better then the Godfather”

Leonard Part 6 is better than all the previous 5 parts put together.

121

js. 09.29.13 at 12:46 am

And re the actual topic of the thread, I’d agree with Holbo that Raiders is good, but it’s no Jaws, and it’s no Die Hard, which is fucking awesome.

(Pete Mack: I don’t think “great” need mean, “One of the ten best ever”, or anything like that. To pick a recent not-quite-blockbuster, I thought Drive was great, but it’s likely not even top 100. Elysium on the other hand, was merely good.)

122

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 12:51 am

“How can 61 be so right but 65 be so wrong? How..”

Just relax Ronan and take a deep breath. I am sure the men in white coats will be by to pick you up soon…
;-)

123

Anderson 09.29.13 at 12:54 am

Agree w 32. Holbo is just trolling. Is there a better Arthurian movie?

124

calling all toasters 09.29.13 at 1:10 am

Anderson@118: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, duh. Eric Rohmer’s Perceval is kind of great, but very strange and uncommercial even for Rohmer.

125

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 1:16 am

Anon.: Don’t make us have to get in another pointless battle royale. The most “obvious” thing that happened in the 90s was that a style that excellent musicians like the Pixies and Sonic Youth got taken further and to wider audiences. But the most important thing that happened in the 90s for music was the rise of West Coast hip-hop. (OK, and the Beastie Boys released a truly genius, seminal album, with an amount of sampling no one but mashup artists can use now, Paul’s Boutique.) Shit, and Nas Illmatic–but be that as it may–The Chronic was the best album of the 90s (aw Jesus, OK, 3-way tie with Nevermind and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea). That sound was so fresh that when St. Ides Malt Liquor made a series of 30-second ads with a crazy all-star cast of rappers–I mean, Eric B and Rakim, East Coast too–people started calling in radio shows and asking them to play the ads done by West Coast rappers like Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre, and Snoop (who at that time and even till like 6 or 8 months after The Chronic was released didn’t have any solo recordings.) Asking them to play ads! Because there was no airplay for that sound! And then when The Chronic came out, and I was living in California at the time, everywhere you went that Parliament/Funkadelic riff was pouring out of every open window: “swing down, sweet chariot stop and let me ride.” You may not like the slick sound and loping beat and twinkling synth transitions from chorus to bridge that you hear in almost every track on the radio, but it came from a good place, and that place was LA, in the 90s. During which Ice Cube had a “Good Day.”

126

Anderson 09.29.13 at 1:17 am

119: thanks for the tip. Sounds weird yet intriguing!

127

Main Street Muse 09.29.13 at 1:18 am

“I think the saddest comment one can make of movies of the 80s is that Rob Reiner might well be the best director of the decade.”

Others directing in the 80s include: John Hughes (all of his famous movies), Paul Verhoven (RoboCop), Robert Zemekis (Back to the Future), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), James Cameron (Aliens, Terminator), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), Tim Burton (Beetlejuice), Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Peter Bogdanovich (Mask), Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), Spielberg (ET), Milos Forman (Amadeus), Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society), Oliver Stone (Platoon), David Lynch (Elephant Man & Blue Velvet), Scorsese (Raging Bull). Apparently John Huston directed Annie (!!!!)

1980s film not so bad…

128

Cleanthes 09.29.13 at 1:22 am

The sad truth is that American movies from the ’80s sucked more than Miss Grey at her Gang explosion movie.

129

js. 09.29.13 at 1:29 am

But the most important thing that happened in the 90s for music was the rise of West Coast hip-hop. (OK, and the Beastie Boys released a truly genius, seminal album, with an amount of sampling no one but mashup artists can use now, Paul’s Boutique.) Shit, and Nas Illmatic–but be that as it may–The Chronic was the best album of the 90s

No love for Enter The Wu? Really? Great list otherwise (tho I will go ahead and forward the heretical notion that the two best songs on Doggystyle are better than anything on the Chronic.

(On the other hand, and this is going to make a lot of people sad, I have never understood the love of Neutral Milk Hotel, and I like my share of 90’s indie rock.)

130

calling all toasters 09.29.13 at 1:35 am

East Coast vs. West Coast rap? I don’t want any shootings in here kids.

131

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 1:40 am

Mao Cheng Ji, my good man! My brother in intellectual discourse on the weblog crookedtimber.org! I see that you have found time to contribute four comments (@21, 80, 82, 89) in this thread about whether Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good film. I just have a couple of questions, which–just so you know–I am going to hound you with continuously. 1) Why was your reaction to this post not to say, “Yawn. Could someone from The Management post something crookedtimeber-like, please”? What about this post, qua question about whether a Spielberg movie holds up to repeated viewing, made it a useful, lofty and appropriate subject to discuss, vs. a trifling discussion about whether the accepted canon of later 20th-century authors, all of whom are male, are sexist in a way that causes aesthetic failure in many cases? Show your work. 2) Is John Holbo part of the The Management? Given that there must be some non-Management Crooked Timber posters in order for The Management to have anyone to manage, who are the non-members, exactly? Thanking you in advance, and fully intending to harass you with these questions ceaselessly until you give some half-assed justification or non-apology apology, Belle Waring.

132

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 1:45 am

Oh fuck, I can’t deny any Wu-Tang Clan. Let’s just say, the increasing maturation of hip-hop as a musical genre with various styles. Except then Puff Daddy came and a dark shadow was cast across the lands, etc.

133

Donald A. Coffin 09.29.13 at 2:01 am

I’m with Horvendile (way back up there). Only the scene in which Indy whips out his pistol and shoots the dervish with the sword (I remember thinking, in the theater, “Finally!) does anything much happen for me. Other than that, it’s a stringing together of B-movie serials.

134

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 2:10 am

Cavafy

“You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city.”

TLC

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and lakes that
You’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way
Or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast”

What am I missing here..? Whats the difference?

135

mds 09.29.13 at 2:15 am

Ronan(rf) @ 111:

I’ll go as far as say, as a trilogy, pound for pound, Lethal Weapon is better then the Godfather

But that’s not really a fair comparison, pitting a trilogy against a duology like that.

Anderson @ 118:

Is there a better Arthurian movie?

Well, when you put it in those terms, you’ve really placed your thumb on the scales. It’s like asking if there’s a better 80s movie with Patrick Stewart in it.

As for 126, I am somehow reminded of a line from yet another 1980s film: “Reap the whirlwind.”

136

Cleanthes 09.29.13 at 2:18 am

Nothing. You’re not missing a damn thing.
TLC

A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hangin’ out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Tryin’ to holla at me
I don’t want no scrub

Cavafy

I am very moved by one detail
in the coronation at Vlachernai of John Kantakuzinos
and Irini, daughter of Andronikos Asan.
Because they had only a few precious stones
(our afflicted empire was extremely poor)
they wore artificial ones: numerous pieces of glass,
red, green, or blue. I find
nothing humiliating or undignified
in those little pieces of colored glass.
On the contrary, they seem
a sad protest against
the unjust misfortune of the couple being crowned,
symbols of what they deserved to have,
of what surely it was right that they should have
at their coronation—a Lord John Kantakuzinos,
a Lady Irini, daughter of Andronikos Asan.

137

Barry Freed 09.29.13 at 2:31 am

But -1 to Tremors – Barry, that’s just weird.

A bit tongue in cheek there, Phil.

But how could I forget Repoman? Which felt like the film of my generation.

And has no one mentioned the Evil Dead movies?

138

john 09.29.13 at 3:02 am

A friend of mine who used to rave about Paula Abdul when a little high finally saw MJ in concert – it was like he’d come to Jesus. No better world and all that. It’ll be a thousand years before anyone and all that. But let’s face it – the man was the best. No-one had his choreography, musical talent, voice, etc. in one package. Not. Even. Close. And I just watched Princess Bride with my 11-year-old daughter – it reminded me of Monsieur Croche, “Its taste in the mouth, both strange and delightful, is of a pink bonbon filled with snow.”. (Thank you Internet.) Of course I enjoyed it. And when I’m eighty-four, inshallah, I’ll enjoy it again. Does that make it great? “If it sounds good, it is good.”. So it’s good. Who cares about great? Do I have time for great? I could die of old age searching for great! And would I know it if I found it? How do I know? I don’t know! But maybe I’ll watch Raiders again, just to calibrate…

139

Bloix 09.29.13 at 3:05 am

Okay, I’m not going to ask how someone who thinks Jonathan Franzen is so sexist that reading him is unbearable also thinks that The Chronic comes from a good place. I asked about Lucas because the sexism of Raiders is one of a dozen reasons that makes it a shitty movie.

But about Dr Dre – not even going to ask.

140

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 3:21 am

Bloix
I think you have something, bearing in mind geo’s ‘there are numerous ways to enjoy great art’ etc.
Perhaps it’s easier to ignore misogyny in music (and no one denies that *a lot* of rap is deeply misogynistic – especially from that era) because the expectations from music aren’t primarily lyrical. (Belle, above, doesnt mention rap known for its lyrics, rather for its musical content) So you can say the positives in this case outweigh the negatives
There are other reasons I cant think of at the minute, but perhaps thats one..

141

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 3:24 am

Actually, google tells me ‘lyrical’ doesnt mean what I thought it does. Anyway, who cares, im sure you get the idea..

142

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 3:50 am

Another vote for Beverly Hills Cop (& I’m a sucker for the theme song).

143

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 3:54 am

And i’ll vote for Romancing the Stone, Earth Girls Are Easy and, probably, Tremors.

Raiders is at least decent.

144

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 3:57 am

Bloix
Actually.. I want to clarify that, because I dont want it taken up wrong (and I hope this doesnt get overwrought etc)
My reading of Belle’s comment was it specifically stressed the musical aspects of West Coast rap

“The Chronic was the best album of the 90s..That sound was so fresh that when St. Ides Malt Liquor made a series of 30-second ads with a crazy all-star cast of rapper.. I was living in California at the time, everywhere you went that Parliament/Funkadelic riff was pouring out of every open window: “swing down, sweet chariot stop and let me ride.” You may not like the slick sound and loping beat and twinkling synth transitions from chorus to bridge that you hear in almost every track on the radio, but it came from a good place, and that place was LA, in the 90s. During which Ice Cube had a “Good Day.”

I think it’s more difficult to make the non misogynistic case for rap that stressed lyrics over music,( ie the Wu Tang). Belle mentions Nas, but Illmatic wasnt misogynistic in any systematic way
So you can enjoy a lot of it (perhaps) despite it being problematic. Its a personal opinion thoughm so I dont know (I was going to raise the same question vis a vis The Stones etc – Brown Sugar! – in the last thread. I dont know how this works itself out)

145

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 3:58 am

Did any of you all bring up as a resounding objection to my thesis that I didn’t like a bunch of novels which shared a common flaw of being sexist in a particular way: “but Belle! You recently admitted that you love the Rolling Stones! You are refuted!” No? Why not? Is it because that’s not a valid criticism of my argument, or even something in the Van Kuyper’s belt orbiting the star of my argument? If you like the Rolling Stones, you don’t have shit to say about Dre.

146

godoggo 09.29.13 at 4:07 am

The thought did cross my mind fwiw

147

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 4:09 am

Cross-posted with Ronan(rf). Also, you are arguing with straw Belle Waring. Real Belle Waring said she doesn’t have a problem with sexism in novels of the 19th century and previous, unless they are noxious and extreme. So, real Belle Waring reads and enjoys many many many sexist works of literature. Similarly, real Belle Waring has said that some artists get over this hurdle and engage her anyhow, and further that she explicitly rejects any analogies to music in this sphere, whether it was the implication that readers who don’t enjoy sexist works of literature because they ate sexist are like deaf people who cannot hear music and should be pitied, or the claim that literature is like music in that the greater the materials used, the greater the results, just as symphonies with cannons in then are better than the other kind. So, straw Belle Waring may be under some constraint of ideological purity which forces her to throw away every sexist work of popular music in the last 100 years, real Belle Waring is not.

148

godoggo 09.29.13 at 4:14 am

Anyway, what’s wrong with being sexy?

149

philosofatty 09.29.13 at 4:14 am

Dre Day has one of the best rap bass lines ever, unquestionably, but that album has a mixed legacy at best. On the one hand, it completely blew through the glass ceiling hanging over commercial rap before it, but, on the other, it rigidly codified what commercial rap was for years afterwards. A random smattering of ’80s and early ’90s commercial rap sounds wildly diverse in comparison with the gangsta heyday. I think you could even argue that in many ways the inheritance of ’90s gangsta rap is Insane Clown Posse. Who wins that argument wins the battle maybe. More personally, The Chronic was responsible for about a zillion “deez nuts” jokes scrawled into ’90s high school yearbooks across the land, to say nothing of the related genre of Easy-E/AIDS humor…

150

LFC 09.29.13 at 4:18 am

Bloix:

…Raiders/Star Wars movies were a catastrophic blow to the heart for the future of Hollywood films: loud, frenetic, childish, badly acted, poorly plotted, overtly racist and sexist (and proud of it) and aggressively stupid. The very moral of Star Wars – repeated continuously so you can’t possibly miss the point – is that thinking is a very bad way to solve problems. And is there a more passive heroine in the history of movie-making than Marion Ravenwood? Oh, wait – how could I forget Princess Leia?

Seriously, is anyone on this thread also reading the several Belle Waring threads? Obviously John Holbo is. Can anyone who finds Jonathan Franzen unreadably sexist genuinely enjoy George Lucas? How can that be?

‘Raiders’ I view as a fairly forgettable Hollywood action movie, despite what one commenter above, DaveL, says about its continuous placing of the characters in danger etc. ‘Star Wars’ on the other hand is different. It creates a world in a way that ‘Raiders’ doesn’t. Is it profound? No, I think not, though I know at least one smart person who thinks it is. But I think to call it “aggressively stupid” is prob. an overstatement.

More pertinently, Star Wars is pop culture/mass culture; Franzen is not. I think different standards therefore apply; or maybe it’s better to say that one may legitimately apply different standards. (I also don’t think of the Star Wars movies as esp. sexist or racist but perhaps I just never thought to ask whether they are.)

I agree w Ian Munro @76 about good *non*-Hollywood movies in the 80s; however, as far as Hollywood and the ‘name’ American directors are concerned, the 70s are the better decade for reasons that have already been elaborated on by others above.

A while back Nils Gilman had a post on best movies of the 70s:
http://smallprecautions.blogspot.com/2013/05/best-movies-of-1970s.html

which I commented briefly on here:
http://howlatpluto.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-1970s-on-screen.html

151

Meredith 09.29.13 at 4:26 am

I’m wondering, are we all getting het up about men eating menstrual pads (man-eating menstrual pads? I kinda like that image better) and our favorite authors and movies and those we can’t abide and so forth because the U.S. House of Representatives (with help from a few senators, like the one who looms as Cuba’s revenge in the form of a Battista-McCarthy hybrid) is taking the U.S. to the brink of civil war? And if we are not from the U.S. — well, there’s austerity everywhere, and the Golden Dawn, and Putin, and, in a word, Somalia — and maybe soon Kenya. (Not to mention that a U.S. default on its debt could upset the whole world.) Just wondering.
Not a criticism. Rather an ode to the power of literature, movies, music, all that.

152

js. 09.29.13 at 4:33 am

So, this thread—esp. Belle’s reference to “Good Day” (which, fucking awesome!)—made me put on Death Certificate, and that shit as good as anything from the 90s. Also, Ready to Die has not gotten nearly enough love on this thread. So, yeah, hooray to “the increasing maturation of hip-hop” (BW @132).

153

js. 09.29.13 at 4:35 am

@Anderson,

If You want “weird and intriguing” Arthurian films, you _definitely_ want Bresson’s _Lancelot du Lac_.

154

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 4:47 am

Or ..

155

Dave Maier 09.29.13 at 4:48 am

Ha, Lancelot du Lac, excellent. Here’s a bit I remember from that one:

One guy [blankly]: “Il faut chercher le Gral.”
Another guy [equally blankly]: “Oui.”
Neither moves.

That, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Excalibur, a triple feature for the [Middle] ages.

156

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 4:50 am

..theres a lot of path dependance in my yout**ing

157

js. 09.29.13 at 5:22 am

Ronan @253:

Lauryn Hill is brilliant across genres, but if only she’d rapped more.

158

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 5:26 am

Thanks js! I’m loving this thread, but have to go to bed.
Somehow, I ended up here ..

159

Dugan Dibert 09.29.13 at 6:15 am

I’m pretty sure that Raiders of the Ark was an attempt to re-create the spirit of the adventure series of the late ’30’s and ’40’s. Those were shorts that were shown along with the main feature, like cartoons and newsreels. Flash Gordon is the one you’re probably familiar with, but there were lots of others. People Spielberg’s age saw re-runs on television in the ’50’s.

The one I remember semi-clearly was called Tim Tyler’s Luck. A guy goes to Africa in search of a lost relative, runs into gorillas and maybe Nazis. These episodes ran for fifteen or twenty minutes and always ended with the guy headed for certain death, maybe riding on a palm branch down a cliff into a bottomless pit, and then at the start of the next episode you’d find he’d landed on a ledge or caught hold of a root. I think Tim Tyler had the fedora and the leather jacket and the belt pistol, but if he didn’t, others did.

I’m pretty sure that Spielberg explained these inspirations in interviews around the time of the release. He was open about it, in a way that I don’t think Lucas ever was about trying to make the ur-’50’s pulp science fiction plot and Dune into a movie. He did a good job on the movie– it was as close to the real thing as a full-length feature could be. The fact that a lot of you guys loved it and still give it credit is probably evidence that Spielberg really is some sort of artist.

As far as American Graffiti holding up, yeah, it holds up, if you graduated from high school in the mid-’60’s in a town like Modesto, and listened to Wolfman Jack.

160

Dugan Dibert 09.29.13 at 6:27 am

Oh, yeah. Frequently in those adventure serials there would be a submarine, and the guy in the fedora would jump onto the back of it. The only thing Spielberg left out was the gyrocopters. Always there were gyrocopters.

161

Sancho 09.29.13 at 6:55 am

I don’t have the knowledge to make informed criticisms of cinema, but the 80s movie that I’ve watched, broken down, quoted and enjoyed most as a cultural and generational touchstone is, hands down, Aliens.

162

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 7:02 am

Death Certificate! I love that to…death. I have had occasion to be in the ER waiting room with fucking blood coming out of my face, “one hour had passed/done watched two episodes of M.A.S.H.” Like, hello triage motherfuckers?

163

Mitchell Freedman 09.29.13 at 7:18 am

The 80s were when narrowcasting, forecasted by Alvin Toffler, came into its own.

There are plenty of “cult” films from the 80s that deserve praise: Buckaroo Banzai (I was, I admit, a Blue Blaze Irregular), Repo Man (“Repo Man always intense…” among other great lines in the film), They Live (only Elysian captures class issues in a sci-fi film as well), MacArthur’s Children (a much neglected but beautiful Japanese film), Joshua Then and Now (an outstanding film based upon an outstanding book of Mordecai Richler).

The last two are not even available on DVD, they are so “cult.”

The same is said with music as I agree with one of the commenters about The Smiths. They are not really known outside of a relative few million compared to 100 million or more Americans who know Michael Jackson and tens of million who know R.E.M. Still, I loved The Smiths and still loved R.E.M., even when they became relatively “popular.” Imagine that!

164

The Raven 09.29.13 at 7:37 am

I never thought Raiders or the other Spielberg films from the decade were all that special. Maybe it’s a blind spot for me, but I always felt manipulated by Spielberg and that the film was thematically weak (though I feel that way about most science fiction films; it may be the thematic content of the best sf simply does not film, or at least has not yet been filmed.) That said, it was a kind of filmmaking and story that had almost disappeared, and Raiders was a lot of fun.

Lucas…I think he was and is much more successful as a visual designer than a storyteller. Star Wars was the first visually persuasive space opera, and his work there still stands; head and shoulders above even most current work made with better technology. But his stories and direction of actors were poor.

I’d like to see the thematic content of great written science fiction brought to the screen, as well as the beautiful scenery. But maybe it is not possible. Or, maybe anime is making a better job of it. Has anyone considered Cordwainer Smith as anime? I think that could be utterly successful.

165

Bloix 09.29.13 at 7:40 am

145-147. I’m not arguing with any Belle Waring. I did try to engage some Belle Waring or other (real, straw, whatever) on a prior thread when I pointed out that Franzen wrote a whole novel – his most recent – with a woman protagonist written for the most part in the first person and asked if you’ve read it and got no response, meaning perhaps that you haven’t which would be a major fault in a wholesale condemnation of a writer for not trying to write women with inner lives (possibly a fair inference given the vociferous replies to others who presumed to assume you hadn’t read something) but perhaps meaning no more than you didn’t think the point was worth a response, which is of course fine and something I do in my own modest way all the time.

But now I’m not arguing. I’m not. even. asking.

PS- in an effort to get this thread back on track, let me say again that Raiders is the worst sort of infantile hokum. It’s not even a real movie. It’s a parody of 1930’s and 40’s serials, and it’s worse than they were, and they sucked. Anyone who enjoys it has a mental age of 12. It’s truly shocking to me that John could ever have thought that it was a great movie.

166

The Raven 09.29.13 at 7:47 am

Then again, I have modest hopes for the film production of Vonda McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun.

167

The Raven 09.29.13 at 7:52 am

Bloix, oh, come off it. Seriously, what’s wrong with liking something that teenagers like? And I think people who look down on teenage tastes are, well, out of touch with their own younger selves.

I have come to greatly distrust the attitude that treats with contempt art which gives joy to youth. I suspect that attitude has more of resentment and self-hatred in it than maturity.

168

Alison P 09.29.13 at 8:32 am

People have mentioned John Carpenter but not The Thing? I just did a text search because I thought I must have missed it. The Thing, Blade Runner, Robocop, Aliens, the first two Terminators, Repo Man. What a decade the 80s were for SF films. There’s literally nothing like that any more.

What I like about Raiders is that it presents a sexually attractive man, in a delightful way. I particularly like that he’s a bit useless some of the time.

169

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 8:43 am

“Bloix, oh, come off it. Seriously, what’s wrong with liking something that teenagers like? And I think people who look down on teenage tastes are, well, out of touch with their own younger selves.”

If the culture isn’t producing stuff that adults and teenagers can enjoy on a more or less equal basis, then we’re in trouble. But the, well, um, err, we ARE in trouble, aren’t we?

170

Mao Cheng Ji 09.29.13 at 8:45 am

@131, sorry about the misunderstanding about the ‘yawn’ part: it was directed entirely at commenters. The last I read was someone analyzing Dostoyevsky as a murder-mystery author, sort of a 19c Elmore Leonard.

2. The management in this case is anyone with an Author account.
1. I know them when I see them. LGM-style posts, with denunciations and massive amounts of sarcasm and swagger. And CT-style posts: well, a bit lighter. Needless to say, nothing’s wrong with the LGM style. If anything, it’s more popular, obviously. But their comment threads are not that good, imho.
Hope it helps.

171

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 9:43 am

Bloix: I did hear you but didn’t have a chance to respond among the umpty trillion other conversations. I have not read Freedom. I don’t think it’s very fair to say to a woman who’s read some essays and The Corrections, oh, you can’t have a well considered opinion on the subject until you read this other huge book, on account of that the author’s voice is stipulatively femal due to the gender of the narrator. Have you read the U of Toronto prof’s defense of himself, entitled (not making this up at all) “I haven’t got a sexist or racist bone in my body”? I have trouble finding and typing the links on my phone–please search. One of his main points in his defense of himself against the charge of sexism (and whatever else kind of idiot he is he’s sexist)? “My forthcoming novel has a female narrator.” I think you will readily grant this is an idiotic defense. Why should I be compelled to read Freedom on that same basis? And for the last fucking time–can a woman just not like to read some books because she thinks they ate books of poor quality? For, indeed, with Franzen in particular I have many other complaints; he is not a great author whose greatness is marred by this tragic flaw/-he is a shitty writer who also suffers from the problem that [insert all my previous comments and posts because somehow there wasn’t enough of that]. What’s your damage?For real, what?

172

Phil 09.29.13 at 9:58 am

adam.smith: perhaps I chose the wrong directors to list*, but I really wasn’t trying to play the High Culture card. Kubrick, Welles, Hitchcock, David Lean, Powell & Pressburger, Bill Forsyth – all these people were playing the same game as Lucas & Spielberg, making the same kinds of films for the same kinds of audience. You can have action, suspense, wide-open spaces, the shock of the unknown… and wit, characterisation, story and visual beauty. Put it another way, Lucas’s films are playing the same game as those people, just not doing it very well – but they do have the 40s-serial virtues of frenetic pacing, obvious black- & white-hats and stupid jokes, and that gives them a lot of candy-floss appeal.

*I just really like Buñuel. A long time ago on a list far far away, someone was soliciting recommendations for films to watch when off work with flu. I said “Call me insufferably pretentious, but in those situations I always fancy something by Buñuel.” “Phil, you’re insufferably pretentious, came the almost immediate reply.

173

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 9:59 am

They ate so many books of poor quality. OM NOM NOM. Psych, that was supposed to be are. But we’d better take off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. LOL, now I’m imagining a book Geiger alien, with the jaws of a paperback emerging from those of a hardback and down to the tiny blank books 1/4 the size of an iPhone, with marbled paper covers, that they sell in this one place in Florence where they make amazing marbled papers.

174

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 10:37 am

“Why should I be compelled to read Freedom on that same basis?”

I figure you asked that question in a rhetorical mode, Belle, but I’m going to un-rhet it and provide an explicit answer: You shouldn’t. There’s only so much time in the world, you’ve given Franzen a chance already, and he’s given you no reason the want more. Nor, on the face of it, has anyone in these conversations come up with compelling reasons for you to reconsider.

And the thing is, it is possible for a person to reconsider and give an author, or a composer or a performer, painter, whatever, another chance. They have to be ‘within range’ and the reconsideration means hard work. You change yourself so that this thing you didn’t like, now ‘fits’. But someone has to give you a compelling reason to make the change.

When you’re young, the prospect of flunking is school may, just may, be a compelling reason. But we’re adults here so that kind of thing doesn’t work.

And, it’s possible for people to like different things.

In any event, I figure that the value of contemporary works is pretty much in suspension. We each of us have our preferences, but that proverbial ‘test of time’ really does take time. I mean, even Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare in his time. People knew he was good, some of them, but it took a couple of centuries for him to become The Immortal Bard. What made him immortal was other people copping his stuff and building around and on it.

We don’t know what contemporary writers are going to have their stuff stolen by our grandchildren. It’s our grandchildren who’re going to make the call about the great writers of today. All we can do is nominate them.

So, some folks here want to nominate Franzen for consideration by the grandkids. OK.

And Belle is saying that, from a certain group of writers who happen to be very well known these days, she doesn’t want to put any of them in nomination. And she’s given her reasons.

End of story.

175

SusanC 09.29.13 at 11:51 am

@169. A film you definitely should not watch when you have flu is A Scanner Darkly. Now, I’m a big fan of Phillip K Dick, and I thought A Scanner Darkly was one of the better screen adaptations. But when I saw it I was going down with flu, and almost on the point of hallucinating from fever. Fever hallucinations + the rotoscoping technique they used + the plot of A Scanner Darkly is not a good combination., especially when you come out of the cinema afterwards. I guess it’d be a poor choice of movie to watch while on drugs[*], too…

[*] depending on which drug.

176

SusanC 09.29.13 at 11:57 am

(Oh, in case someone points this out … I wouldn’t go to the cinema knowing I had the flu, in case I passed it on to someone else. I was at the point where I was going down with a fever but hadn’t realised that was what was happening).

177

Main Street Muse 09.29.13 at 12:20 pm

Bloix – I read Freedom, thought it sucked. Characters were awful. Story was awful. Franzen’s a hater, not just a sexist. He hates all his characters equally, regardless of gender.

178

novakant 09.29.13 at 12:31 pm

It always strikes me in discussions like these how insular the English speaking world is culturally. In this discussion, discussing the 80s, the vast majority of examples that are being brought up are in the English language, examples from other countries are hardly mentioned. Looking outside the bubble, we find that major directors made great films and some masterpieces during the 80s, e.g.:

Truffaut / Bergman / Beneix / Wenders / Kurasawa / Woo / Tavernier / Bresson / Resnais / Malle / Besson / Leconte / Varda / Berri / Wajda / Kieslowski / Fassbinder / Tarkovsky / Rohmer / Kusturica / Kaurismaeki / Hsiao-Hsien / Klimov / Beizai / Hallström

179

RN 09.29.13 at 12:36 pm

You’re totally out of your mind. Wreck-It Ralph couldn’t even be a sideshow to Raiders.

You’re comparing something whose iconography has penetrated the culture’s soul, that you’ve been exposed to in way way or another for decades, that you could probably recite major parts of by heart – to something that you have the excitement of seeing for the first time.

Intellectual FAIL.

180

Hector_St_Clare 09.29.13 at 12:38 pm

Raven,

Because the Bloix wouldn’t be able to sneer at the rest of us for being immature because we like racist, sexist pieces of art. I’m also curious exactly what he finds racist / sexist about the Indiana Jones films.

181

dsquared 09.29.13 at 12:38 pm

The female narrator of “Freedom” is totally, totally, Jonathan Frantzen in a frock.

Doesn’t the climactic scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” totally undercut the premis of the entire film? The Nazis open the Ark and it melts their faces off (oh yeah, sorry, spoiler alert), so all of their project of trying to capture it and use it as a superweapon was intrinsically screwed from step one. So a) if Dr Jones had just stayed at home and not wasted all that time, the result would have been the same anyway, and b) realising that sort of thing is exactly what the US Government was presumably trying to achieve when they consulted an archaeologist in the first place.

182

dsquared 09.29.13 at 12:40 pm

It always strikes me in discussions like these how insular the English speaking world is culturally.

You’re talking about 380 million people here; it’s a pretty big island to be insular on.

183

Belle Waring 09.29.13 at 1:04 pm

Now that I think about it, how were they even planning to weaponize it? Just…open it…at people?
“Mao Cheng Ji
@131, sorry about the misunderstanding about the ‘yawn’ part: it was directed entirely at commenters. The last I read was someone analyzing Dostoyevsky as a murder-mystery author, sort of a 19c Elmore Leonard.
2. The management in this case is anyone with an Author account.
1. I know them when I see them. LGM-style posts, with denunciations and massive amounts of sarcasm and swagger. And CT-style posts: well, a bit lighter. Needless to say, nothing’s wrong with the LGM style. If anything, it’s more popular, obviously. But their comment threads are not that good, imho.
Hope it helps.”
Well, it just goes to show how easy it is to misinterpret things on the internet.

184

DaveL 09.29.13 at 1:07 pm

Bloix @162. I’ve heard that rap about 100 times from people who didn’t like Raiders, and another 100 from people who didn’t like Star Wars. I doubt any of them ever actually saw a 30’s-40’s serial of either genre. I can remember the Flash Gordon serials shown on TV, but that’s all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Raiders-esque serial anywhere, though I have no doubt they exist. The few clips from them I’ve seen on Youtube do not support your thesis either.

Both movies are attempts, mostly successful, to take something that thrilled the director at age 12 and make it into something that was as good as his memory of it but much much better than the actual original. I don’t think this is an ambition to be derided, as it underlies a lot of cultural endeavor. Best of all, they are both successful. He really did polish up and improve the sources in a major way. If you want to nail your thesis to the other Indiana Jones movies, I’ll gleefully join you, though with a small reservation about Last Crusade. Same for all the Star Wars movies after The Empire Strikes Back.

Donald A. Coffin @133. That was a great moment in film, one which audiences had waited for since Thomas Edison. Vaughn Bode had done it earlier in a Cheech Wizard strip, of course. It’s also been described as an acting out of Western imperialism. Another similar moment was when Major Toht pulls out his torture instrument to use on Marion Ravenwood, and it turns out to be a collapsable hanger which he then carefully hangs his coat on. (No doubt moments like that are why Bloix calls the movie a “parody,” though.)

SusanC @169. I liked A Scanner Darkly a lot, and I’m not sure why I didn’t like it more. Maybe it was Keanu Reaves, maybe it was the rotoscoping. It was a much more faithful adaptation than Blade Runner.

185

Random Lurker 09.29.13 at 1:07 pm

@bob mcmanus 100
“Greatest artist of the 80s was Takahashi Rumiko, with a half-dozen masterpieces.”

I strongly agree (expecially “Maison Ikkoku”), however I assumed the post was about “Hollywood blockbusters”.
If we’re going to include japanese manga/anime, I suppose we should at least speak of “Akira”, probably one of the best cyberpunk movie to date? (not to speak of the manga). Plus a lot of Miyazaki stuff.

@Ronan et al.
I think that Robocop had many great scenes, but many holes too. Yet it somehow symbolizes the 80es.
The “You have 20 seconds to comply” scene is just the best.

@MPAVictoria et al.
Because of the way the “Princess bride” was translated and marketed in Italy, I always saw it as a sloppy imitation of “Neverending story”.
“Neverending story” is really Spielberg-like, and has been my favorite movie for a lot of years.

186

Anon 09.29.13 at 1:26 pm

What, this thread about movies and music is talking about books now? Franzen again? Please nooooooooooo!

187

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 1:35 pm

Random Lurker

With a niece/nephew on the way one of the things I’m looking forward to is sitting them down at an opportune age (4, I think?) putting on Robocop, and explaining. This. Is how .
it was. When I was your age

188

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 1:38 pm

Although I can offer an overwrought, not particularly coherent and, certainly, idiotic analysis of the many layers of Robocop
Any interest, feel free to ask

189

Walt 09.29.13 at 1:39 pm

SC, I loved the quote from your son about the 80s.

The Red Letter Media reviews convinced me that the original Star Wars movies are better than the prequels, and that it’s not just nostalgia. Almost every story element is executed better. For example, in the reviews they juxtapose the romance elements from Empire with those in Clones, and its immediately clear why one is interesting and the other is boring.

190

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 1:41 pm

1. “Takahashi Rumiko” – yes.

2. Raiders is better than Flash Gordon serials, better than Zorro too.

3. My addled mind gets from “LGM” to “Little Green Men” & Buzz Lightyear long before “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”.

191

Anon 09.29.13 at 1:56 pm

Belle,

I have to fold in the battle royale: I just don’t have enough knowledge about 90s rap. Fortunately, this thread has given me a great mixtape of 90s suggestions to try, so I can remedy that. But I stand by the superiority of 80s rock and pop to 90s.

“excellent musicians like the Pixies and Sonic Youth got taken further and to wider audiences.”

I admit I hold a grudge against the 90s for this: I resent that bands influenced by great bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth (+ Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr, even Jane’s Addiction) got more fame, more money, and sometimes (Nirvana) more praise. I don’t think they were as good as their predecessors. But I do appreciate the 90s for retroactively rewarding the originators: Nirvana fans, for example, often turned into Pixies fans.

192

Anon 09.29.13 at 1:59 pm

MG@44

The Feelies are wonderful, and two 80s classics to add to the list: Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth.

193

LFC 09.29.13 at 2:03 pm

Bloix

PS- in an effort to get this thread back on track, let me say again that Raiders is the worst sort of infantile hokum. It’s not even a real movie. It’s a parody of 1930′s and 40′s serials, and it’s worse than they were, and they sucked. Anyone who enjoys it has a mental age of 12.

I have some sympathy for this position (but might not put it *quite* as strongly). I saw ‘Raiders’ went it came out, didn’t really like it, and since then have almost completely forgotten it. I don’t really remember the plot or the ending, I didn’t remember the snake on the plane in the opening sequence until someone mentioned it in a comment above. Is that b.c I have a bad memory for movies seen many yrs ago or b.c ‘Raiders’ is just a forgettable mediocre movie? Perhaps both, but I certainly don’t think ‘Raiders’ is much good.

Might be instructive to compare ‘Raiders’ to a 1970s movie, specifically John Huston’s version of the Kipling story ‘The Man Who Would be King’ w/ Sean Connery and Michael Caine (if memory serves). There I also don’t really remember the plot or more than perhaps one scene (I think I haven’t seen it since c.1975 when it came out) but I had the sense that it was a decent movie, making due allowances for the racist/imperialist nature of the source material, which I think it didn’t alter much. It’s enjoyable and competent, w/r/t direction, acting etc; the actors are having fun and, while stopping short of parody, are not taking themselves too seriously (did Connery, in his prime, ever take himself too seriously?); and the adventure/thrills aspect sort of emerges, iirc, from the plot. Whereas in a movie like ‘Raiders’ (and presumably the 30s and 40s serials which I am not really familiar with) the plot is more an excuse on which to string a series of ‘situations’.

194

Anon 09.29.13 at 2:09 pm

Mao @167: “@131, sorry about the misunderstanding about the ‘yawn’ part: it was directed entirely at commenters. The last I read was someone analyzing Dostoyevsky as a murder-mystery author, sort of a 19c Elmore Leonard.”

I sometimes tell my students that bored people are boring. Interest is active, not passive. You don’t wait for it to take you; you take it. The remedy for people not saying interesting things about Dostoyevsky is for you to say something interesting about Dostoyevsky. But instead you asked the moderator Gods to do it for you, like a child complaining to its parents that it’s bored. If you had nothing interesting to say, that’s fine, but why slag on the people who are interested in the conversation?

Anyway, I was clearly joking around with the Who Done It comparison. Dostoyevsky is the only human being that I worship like a god. I really do almost worship him like a god. In the movie heavenly creatures, two teenage girls light candles at an alter of Orson Welles. In The 400 Blows, the kid has an alter to, was it Balzac? I generally don’t get that kind of reverence. Except for Dostoyesvky. I deny God to make room for Dostoyevsky.

So, no, that comparison wasn’t serious, and I take the man seriously. The whole point of the conversation was that a 50 page test is unsuited to many great novels. That it’s more suited to the structure of a cheap thriller than a masterpiece. The whole point of comparing Crime and Punishment to a crime novel was to show the difference: it’s not about if and how he gets caught. The whole point is that if I ask the 50 page test what to read, 50 page test will say, “Screw that Dosty what’s his name shit, how about some Elmore Leonard?”

The best thing about Crime and Punishment is that it’s a bait and switch. It tells you it’s a story about actions, but it’s a story about thoughts. It tells you it’s about crime and punishment, but then it’s about neither. It’s about good and evil and guilt, and the confusion of legal and illegal and punishment with those things.

195

novakant 09.29.13 at 2:18 pm

it’s a pretty big island to be insular on.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you say that as if it was a good thing. To each their own, but I find it a bit sad. If cinema – and the arts in general – are, among other things, supposed to facilitate the understanding between people and cultures, to lead us to the idea of a common humanity, then the anglo-saxon monoculture certainly isn’t helping.

Btw, sorry for the typos in my list above.

196

Random Lurker 09.29.13 at 2:18 pm

I just realized that Star Wars [episode IV… sigh…] is a movie from ’77, not from the 80s.

197

LFC 09.29.13 at 2:20 pm

novakant @175
Bergman’s ‘Fanny and Alexander’, which I think is from the 80s, is a great, poignant movie, tho unfortunately i remember virtually nothing about it beyond the fact that i thought it was great.

198

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 2:33 pm

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you say that as if it was a good thing. To each their own, but I find it a bit sad. If cinema – and the arts in general – are, among other things, supposed to facilitate the understanding between people and cultures, to lead us to the idea of a common humanity, then the anglo-saxon monoculture certainly isn’t helping.”

It’s a thread about blockbusters from one’s youth! Not everyone had the privilege of growing up in a town with a multicultural small arts cinema. What are you gonna do next, beat up on people for eating in Burgerland?
I would imagine your complaints have some support here, and people here have somewhat diverse tastes and have heard of the artists you list, but in the name of Jesus its a thread about 80s blockbusters

199

LFC 09.29.13 at 2:39 pm

callingalltoasters @68
… I love Stand by Me…
‘Stand By Me’ is just superb, something I wd definitely watch again on DVD (tho haven’t), b/c again, I don’t remember it as well as wd like to. But I remember the feeling I had coming out of the theater having just seen it and it was a great feeling.

Walt @185
Iirc there is barely any romance worth the name in the Star Wars prequels. There’s a bedroom scene w Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in which the acting is horribly wooden and there is virtually no nudity to distract one from how bad the acting is.

200

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 2:40 pm

“PS- in an effort to get this thread back on track, let me say again that Raiders is the worst sort of infantile hokum. It’s not even a real movie. It’s a parody of 1930′s and 40′s serials, and it’s worse than they were, and they sucked. Anyone who enjoys it has a mental age of 12.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You obviously have no taste in movies at all. You probably also hate Ghostbusters, Groundshog Day, and the first Lord of the Rings Movie and spend your time watching black and white foreign language films about existential despair.

/Mostly kidding, though I do disagree with you opinion on the Lucas films from the 80s.

201

The Raven 09.29.13 at 3:25 pm

dsquared@177: “Doesn’t the climactic scene of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ totally undercut the premise of the entire film?”

Well, this is one of my problems with the film—the villains are too stupid for words. (See “idiot plot,” passim.) Still, I think it’s a fascinating premise, and could have been used more effectively. Suppose, for instance, the Ark could only be used by Cohanim for a righteous cause—for Jewish theurgy? And the Nazis had the Ark? There could be a fascinating story in that.

202

AcademicLurker 09.29.13 at 3:37 pm

Might be instructive to compare ‘Raiders’ to a 1970s movie, specifically John Huston’s version of the Kipling story ‘The Man Who Would be King’ w/ Sean Connery and Michael Caine (if memory serves).

I certainly enjoyed The Man Who Would Be King, but I would vigorously push back against the notion that it’s better than Raiders. And I’m definitely not inclined to give bonus points simply for being made in the 70s (I know you weren’t suggesting that, but I get tired of the vocal “the 70s were the pinnacle of civilization re: film and Spielberg is Satan Himself” position that always comes up during these discussions).

I also second what Susan said in 87 about the real life antics of the Ahnenerbe. The Nazis were into some pretty loopy stuff that makes the premise of Raiders look almost plausible in context.

203

Anderson 09.29.13 at 3:42 pm

177: Jones doesn’t believe in the Ark’s powers, and the US can’t have assumed that the Ark would turn on the Nazis, tho it was obviously a good guess (Hebrew relic? nazis? hello?).

204

Hector_St_Clare 09.29.13 at 3:57 pm

I don’t see what was ‘racist’ about The Man Whp Would Be King either (haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read the novella). It seems like crooked timber is political correctness gone round the bend.

205

Anon 09.29.13 at 3:57 pm

@196 MPAVictoria,

I know you were kidding, but it’s not an either/or. Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies of all time. And many of my other favorite movies of all time are black and white foreign films about existential despair.

And Groundhog Day is, after all, about existential despair. They could have made the dark undertones about mortality clearer by calling it Groundshog Day, as in your mispelling. ;)

And crap, Ghostbusters, also a good one, is also about confronting mortality (I ain’t afraid of no ghost). Maybe all great art really is about “life or death.”

206

Anon 09.29.13 at 4:00 pm

+1 to everyone who has quoted Cavafy. I didn’t understand the comparison and it’s role in the larger discussion, but I endorse quoting Cavafy at any time for any reason because, well, Cavafy! I don’t know many people who know his work, so I’m happy to see that he is loved.

207

Bruce Baugh 09.29.13 at 4:07 pm

I figure that the Raiders Nazis, like a variety of other Nazis real and fictional, were thinking of the Ark as something like a battery they could use for whatever (much like what the Red Skull is up to in the recent delightful Captain America movie) and something like a bound demon that would have to do whatever they told it to as long as they used the magic words.

208

Anon 09.29.13 at 4:07 pm

Also, +1 for Takahashi Rumiko. I had no idea who she was, but then I googled it: Ranma 1/2! Nothing but tragedy happens to Lychee!

What should I read by her next?

209

bill benzon 09.29.13 at 4:12 pm

Maison Ikkoku

210

Anon 09.29.13 at 4:15 pm

callingalltoasters @95: “’Oh, give them a try! The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Fall especially.’ I will. You should try Illmatic, if you haven’t already.”

Don’t know it, but it’s on my playlist now, with many of the others mentioned in this thread. By the way, you might start with Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands, which I find a little more satisfying than the rest. Critics and indie geeks prefer Psychocandy, which is indeed a brilliant mix of the Beach Boys and feedback drenched noise worthy of Phil Spector conducting the Velvet Underground, but the balance often falls to far on the noise side.

Agreed about the unutterably beautiful Trinity Sessions by the Cowboy Junkies–it does seem to be the opening to a predominantly 90s development.

211

engels 09.29.13 at 4:21 pm

Count me among struggling to understand the contours of a political aesthetics which holds that ‘pretty much all the Important Male Novelists of the mid to late 20th-century are such sexist dillweeds that it is actually impossible to enjoy the books’ while holding Paul’s Boutique to be ‘a truly genius, seminal album’ (which isn’t to say that they can’t be made out…)

212

DaveL 09.29.13 at 4:22 pm

LFC @189. The Man Who Would Be King is an excellent movie, but it’s trying to do something completely different and much more serious than what Raiders is about, in spite of the Boy’s Own Adventure substrate. I doubt anyone is claiming that Raiders is a serious movie.

Hector St. Clare @200. Given that the whole movie (and story) is about the idiocy and hubris of imperialism, it’s hard to see. I suppose one might interpret the “heroes” as racists, which they might even be, but they are hardly portrayed as any sort of model to emulate, so any racism comes with the territory. (It’s been a while since I re-watched the movie, so I don’t remember whether there is even any overt racism in it, rather than imperialism.)

213

Phil 09.29.13 at 4:26 pm

the original Star Wars movies are better than the prequels, and that it’s not just nostalgia. Almost every story element is executed better.

No argument there. I could say some disobliging things about the original Star Wars trilogy, but I’d never stoop to saying they were as bad as the prequels.

214

Cleanthes 09.29.13 at 4:42 pm

Mao @ 167

That kind of blanket condemnation of your fellow commenters stinks of toadie mentality. ‘No boss, I wasn’t criticizing you, I was talking about your other servants who are not worthy of your attention; at least I’m a lot better than they are; right boss, right?

It surprised me to read it because you’re obviously not an idiot (come to think of it, idiot does derive from the Greek idiotes, private-minded citizen…). Sorry for the rudeness, but I find this kind of Suneo Honekawa-like groveling to be dangerous

Anderson @199
If Indiana Jones doesn’t believe in the magical powers of the Ark, why does he tell the woman to close her eyes (IIRC, I only watched this crap once, like 30 years ago) when the Ark is being opened? Out of respect?

Also, all praise to Rumiko Takahashi-sensei and her delightful books for children of ages 5 to 105.

215

Bloix 09.29.13 at 4:52 pm

#196 – “Wrong, wrong, wrong. You obviously have no taste in movies at all. You probably also hate Ghostbusters, Groundshog Day, and the first Lord of the Rings Movie and spend your time watching black and white foreign language films about existential despair.”

Ghostbusters is not as funny as Animal House but it’s funny. (Unfortunately the pedophilia and general humiliation of women of Animal House hasn’t held up too well.)

Groundhog Day is a lovely movie. It’s Bunuel with a sunny personality.

The first LotR movie is like being trapped inside a video game. After I saw it, I did a page count – I don’t recall the exact results, but it was something like 6% of the book was devoted to battle scenes vs 60% of the movie. And most of those scenes were crappy CGI.

As for foreign angst-ridden movies, my very, very favorite film of the 1980’s is When Father Was Away On Business, directed by the Serbian director Emir Kusturica.

216

Random Lurker 09.29.13 at 4:56 pm

@Anon
While I agree with Bill that Maison Ikkoku is probably the best work of Takahashi, if you like stories of life and death you should read also Takahashi’s “mermaid forest ” saga, a series of horror stories about life and death.

217

MPAVictoria 09.29.13 at 5:08 pm

Bloixm someone who thinks Animal House is funnier than Ghostbusters should not be calling Indiana Jones childish. Something about glass houses and rocks would be appropriate.

As for LOTRs, the first movie filled me with wonder when I saw it in theatres. It simply blew my mind. One of my favourite movie going experiences ever.

218

Mao Cheng Ji 09.29.13 at 5:16 pm

Hi Cleanthes, 210.
I’m sorry you feel this way. Of course I’m no better. If anyone is better, your thoughtful reply clearly indicates that it must be you.
Anyway, please rest assured that your comment has been noted and your criticism will receive all the attention it deserves.

219

adam.smith 09.29.13 at 5:19 pm

Count me among struggling to understand the contours of a political aesthetics which holds that ‘pretty much all the Important Male Novelists of the mid to late 20th-century are such sexist dillweeds that it is actually impossible to enjoy the books’ while holding Paul’s Boutique to be ‘a truly genius, seminal album’ (which isn’t to say that they can’t be made out…)

that really seems quite easy. Novels ≠ music albums. See http://crookedtimber.org/2013/09/28/raiders-of-the-lost-ark-a-pretty-good-film/#comment-486707 for the long form.

220

Cleanthes 09.29.13 at 5:25 pm

Mao @ 214
I apologize. I was too forceful, perhaps even rude. I was shocked because that one comment of yours was completely out of character with the other usually smart and thoughtful posts of yours I’ve read. And, for what is worth, I don’t think myself better than anybody. If anything, being a rookie at CT, I’m a kohai to my senpais like you.

In any case, it’s too late, the damage is done, I’ll try to do better in the future. Thank you for your measured, perhaps a little ironic, reply.

221

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 5:25 pm

Robocop must also qualify as a film by a European about existential despair?

No love for Pedro Almodovar any more? All About my Mother has to be one of the best films of recent years. A carefully realised despair, but fun.

222

novakant 09.29.13 at 5:26 pm

#194

Since the discussion had meandered into more general territory (the 80s), I thought I might throw in a general but related observation, but it seems the mere mention of “foreign” films seems to trigger some sort of cultural defense mechanism in some quarters – which kind of proves my point.

223

LFC 09.29.13 at 5:29 pm

@Hector St Clare, DaveL

Since Kipling was an imperialist, using this term if you will in a ‘neutral’ sense, to mean here someone who was born and brought up in British India and who believed that British rule was ‘natural’, justified, and on the whole beneficial to India, it strikes me as *highly* unlikely/incredible that The Man Who Would Be King is about “the idiocy and hubris of imperialism.” It may poke fun at the pretensions of the two British soldiers who try to set themselves up as kings, but that’s not the same, I think, as criticizing British rule in India.

As for whether it’s “a serious movie”: DaveL knows more about movies than I do, but I recall it mostly as a piece of entertainment. I suppose it could have had a more serious subtext or element, so I won’t quibble on this point. (And as I already said, I haven’t seen it since ’75.)

224

Ronan(rf) 09.29.13 at 5:29 pm

Novakant
It was the hectoring more than the observation, and the eurocentricity of your list

225

Anon 09.29.13 at 5:34 pm

Thanks to Bill Benzon and Random Lurker for the suggestions. I’ll try them both. (Not obsessed with life and death topics, just can’t seem to avoid them!)

226

Mao Cheng Ji 09.29.13 at 5:47 pm

Cleanthes, thanks.

227

Phil 09.29.13 at 5:48 pm

Groundhog Day is a lovely movie. It’s Bunuel with a sunny personality.

Some mistake here surely. Buñuel may think that life’s meaningless and we’re all doomed – some more horribly than others, some more unjustly than others – but he’s very cheerful in the way he goes about it, at least in the later films.

Just thinking about my strong reaction against Spielberg/Lucas. I realise that even as a pre-teen kid I never liked straight films – “this is what’s going on, this guy’s the hero, these are the bad guys because we just know they are, see the good guy kill the bad guys, hurrah!” For years I avoided war films and Westerns for this reason, although I think in retrospect I probably missed a lot of Westerns I would have liked (not so sure about the war films). When I started seeing films by Buñuel (or Lindsay Anderson, or Kubrick) and they told me loud and clear that there isn’t any sense to life – just people trying to make sense of life – frankly it felt like coming home. So Spielberg/Lucas films, to me, are an orgy of nostalgia for a childhood dream that I never even had.

228

Peter Erwin 09.29.13 at 5:50 pm

dsquared @ 177:
if Dr Jones had just stayed at home and not wasted all that time, the result would have been the same anyway

Not entirely the same: if Jones had stayed at home, Belloq & the Nazis would probably never have found the Ark in the first place. (The Nazis have to follow Jones to Nepal to get the “Headpiece of the Staff of Ra”, without which you don’t know where to dig for the Ark. Even then, they screw things up by only getting one side of the headpiece, as it were; if Jones hadn’t gone on to Egypt with the real headpiece and conveniently dug up the Ark for them, they might still never have found it.)

229

engels 09.29.13 at 6:02 pm

Novels ≠ music albums.

Er, yes. And the reason that sexism is a fatal aesthetic flaw in one but fine in the other is… what exactly?

Of course, there’s no law against just saying ‘I detest sexism in A but not in B’ and having no particular reason at at all, just I’m entirely free to say ‘I hate Jones because he farts during dinner but when Smith does it, that’s cool’ but as an ethical position this is unlikely to seem persuasive.

230

Anon 09.29.13 at 6:14 pm

@225 engels,

I was able to understand the other side of this debate a little better by realizing that enjoyment is a third, distinct issue from both moral and aesthetic judgment. Judging something artistically good or bad doesn’t directly correlate with enjoyment.

I can find something morally flawed, aesthetically good, and enjoyable.
I can also find something morally flawed, aesthetically good, and *not* enjoyable.
So in the case of two morally and aesthetically flawed works, it doesn’t follow that I will or should enjoy or disenjoy them equally. It may sometimes be the case, but not always.

231

godoggo 09.29.13 at 6:14 pm

Stop doing that.

232

js. 09.29.13 at 6:21 pm

engels @207/225:

I just pulled my copy of Gravity’s Rainbow (2006 Penguin reissue) off the shelf. Here’s the blurb on the back:

“The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II.”

The invocation of “American novel” there carries with it an implicit understanding of the place of the book in question in the context of post-WWII cultural production as a whole, its importance and relevance to US culture and society, etc. No one talks about pop music in this way. That discourse just doesn’t exist. So it’s perfectly sensible to forward a critique of the works that are accorded such cultural accolades, a critique that in its essentials is just not going to apply to the Beastie Boys.

233

Jeff H 09.29.13 at 6:35 pm

@215, “that really seems quite easy. Novels ≠ music albums. See http://crookedtimber.org/2013/09/28/raiders-of-the-lost-ark-a-pretty-good-film/#comment-486707 for the long form.”

The linked post is quite good (and one I’d somehow overlooked in this mess previously), but if what you got out of it was “Novels ≠ music albums”, I’ve got to question your reading comprehension skills. It’s not clear to me that Belle is even saying that at all, and it’s certainly not the only or most important thing she says.

234

Anon 09.29.13 at 6:40 pm

godoggo, stop doing what?

235

adam.smith 09.29.13 at 8:14 pm

@233 – the reading comprehension jab is about as lame as Indy IV.
Belle is making three or four different points in that post.
Of those, I do think that “Novels ≠ music albums” is a very close translation of her 3rd point, which begins with: “[the real Belle Warring] rejects any analogies to music in this sphere”.

@229 – as an ethical argument that’s true, but as an aesthetical argument, using different categories for different works of art is entirely legitimate, even normal. That might even lead you to judge the same work of art as flawed or very enjoyable, depending on how you see it – e.g. Michael Moore movies are imho great as agit prop and fatally flawed as documentaries. To me, it makes little sense to judge Raiders… by the same criteria as, say, El Chien Andalous, and it makes even less sense to demand that even a coherent system of aesthetic judgment (which Belle very much doesn’t make any claim to) applies the same categories and weighs them equally for a novel and a hip-hop album.
(Plus what Anon says about enjoyment vs. judgment).

236

godoggo 09.29.13 at 8:39 pm

Anon: I don’t plan on answering that question.

237

godoggo 09.29.13 at 8:43 pm

In fact, do what you want.

238

Anon 09.29.13 at 8:49 pm

That works out really well, since I was going to do what I wanted anyway.

239

Suzanne 09.29.13 at 11:36 pm

@172 Kubrick, Welles, Hitchcock, David Lean, Powell & Pressburger, Bill Forsyth – all these people were playing the same game as Lucas & Spielberg, making the same kinds of films for the same kinds of audience.

That would have come as news to Welles, struggling over years to finance his Shakespeare films, and I don’t think the men who made The Red Shoes shared much in the way of artistic goals with the creator of Naboo and Tatooine. Spielberg certainly has aspired to be the Lean of his era (although he’s better when he’s not trying, in my view). If you mean that these men were all popular artists trying to work within the commercial studio system, that’s true. But in an earlier era feature films were generally aimed at a target demographic consisting mostly of mature women. Now, it’s adolescent males of all ages. That’s made a very big difference (not least to the career prospects of female stars).

240

Warren Terra 09.29.13 at 11:40 pm

There is – or there used to be – an absolutely hilarious music video “Dr. Jones” by British musical comedian Tom McDonnell that would be perfect for this thread. Unfortunately, the only links I can no find indicate the video has been made private. A terrible shame, as it’s both a great song and a well done video. The song can still I think be heard as part of Mitch Benn’s Music Podcast Episode 2, starting about 20 minutes in.

241

Hector_St_Clare 09.29.13 at 11:54 pm

Re: Since Kipling was an imperialist, using this term if you will in a ‘neutral’ sense, to mean here someone who was born and brought up in British India and who believed that British rule was ‘natural’, justified, and on the whole beneficial to India, it strikes me as *highly* unlikely/incredible that The Man Who Would Be King is about “the idiocy and hubris of imperialism.” It may poke fun at the pretensions of the two British soldiers who try to set themselves up as kings, but that’s not the same, I think, as criticizing British rule in India.

It *sort of* pokes fun at them, but also treats them sympathetically, and it’s poking fun at the Nuristanis (and the various rulers of Hindu princely states) as much as at Dravot and Carnahen. Again, not seen the movie but I’ve read the novella.

I think whether British rule was beneficial to India is at least an arguable question. On the whole, probably not, because of the economic stagnation and consequent famines (the economic growth rate under the British was abysmally low). I think at the cultural level, however, India benefited a hell of a lot from the exposure to European ideas. As one of the great mid-twentieth century politicians of the Indian Left put it, the British did a lot to free India from the tyranny of the Brahmins (he reportedly treated August 15, 1947 as a day of mourning rather than celebration).

242

Hector_St_Clare 09.29.13 at 11:55 pm

The Man Who Would Be King was apparently based on real-life accounts of various European & American adventurers in that part of the world.

243

Suzanne 09.30.13 at 12:30 am

@22: “But it actually started in the 70s, with Jaws.”

Yes. Jaws was/is a splendid thriller, with Spielberg’s humor (those were the days!) and filmmaking zest in great form. Alas, it does mark the beginning of the tentpole/blockbuster mentality, along with the original Star Wars (which is cheesy and mostly terrible), and its successors were for the most part increasingly noisy and dumb.

I think also of Animal House, a funny picture that spawned a lot of unfunny junk.

244

Jeffrey Davis 09.30.13 at 12:31 am

“Between London Calling and 1988 there was nothing but pop, worn-out 70s stars, and the other decade of R.E.M. Ptui.”

Apparently you’ve had a stroke and forgot The Blasters.

245

engels 09.30.13 at 12:47 am

Thanks for the replies. I thought I’d just leave everyone with this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MOJcZgKK74&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I’m sure there’s plenty of time to go to these concerts in the hours one saves by not having to plough through Humboldt’s Gift or Gravity’s Rainbow.

246

Barry Freed 09.30.13 at 1:04 am

The Man Who Would Be King was apparently based on real-life accounts of various European & American adventurers in that part of the world.

By Josiah Harlan primarily as well as James Brooke. * Harlan was a truly odd character, an American, an abolitionist and the Prince of Ghor – his descendents still retain the title. There was a bio done of him about a decade back:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/25/books/a-yankee-in-the-great-game.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm

The movie has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. I’ll take it over Indian Jones any day of the week (and twice on Saturdays when it used to run on NYC area TV).

*Both of whom make for some memorable appearances in some of the Flashman novels.

247

LFC 09.30.13 at 1:42 am

@241,242,246: re the additional info on MWWBK: thks, interesting

248

js. 09.30.13 at 1:55 am

engels,

Are you really trying to impress upon us that a ton of pop music is sexist? You think I’ve never listened to Exile in Guyville? (Seriously, I probably could still give you most of the lyrics to “Divorce Song” if I tried.)

Look, I know about the working title to Licensed to Ill, and I frankly love “Borderline schizo/sorta fine tits though” (because how could you not?). But the idea that a critique of canonical (hence male, roughly) novelists of the latter half of the 20th century would have to carry over to hip hop is frankly bizarre. Also, as BW pointed out way up above somewhere, why not the howls of resistance to the Stones? (Surely just because they’re Brits?)

249

Hector_St_Clare 09.30.13 at 2:00 am

Re: *Both of whom make for some memorable appearances in some of the Flashman novels.

Was there ever a Flashman movie, or would the political correctness enthusiasts blackball it?

250

Barry Freed 09.30.13 at 2:36 am

There was indeed: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073639/

With a screenplay by the author himself, directed by Richard Lester and starring Malcolm McDowell as Sir Harry. It’s … okay. Which is to say at least mildly disappointing considering the caliber of the cast and crew as well as the source material.

251

GiT 09.30.13 at 2:39 am

@248 ” Also, as BW pointed out way up above somewhere, why not the howls of resistance to the Stones?”

This reminds me of when the Stones (well, Abkco, which had the rights) sued Lil Wayne for copyright infringement for sampling “Play with Fire”, complaining in part that Wayne’s “Playing with Fire” was “sexist.”

252

Royton De'Ath 09.30.13 at 2:47 am

@249. Yep. Royal Flash 1975. Richard Lester directing. Some great stars. Not-memorable as a fillum-experience. (@250 – tip of titfer)

OP. C’mon. Several people have made the claim, correctly, that whatever its faults (and they might have been deliberate, who knows?) Raiders is a bloody good updating, replaying, of the old serials made around the 30s and 40s. That was the intention, and for my money, in its first blush, it worked admirably.

Growing up after the War the re-runs of these very serials were a staple for Very Loud Kids having fun on Saturday for 6d or sump’n like it.

I saw Raiders when it first came to our local flea-pit in the early 80s. I grinned from ear-to-ear, as did many other folk lolling about in the dark, with the affection given to those shockingly bad/good 40s flicks and, and, for the sniff of memories of being one, amongst many young Saturday morning hooligans, years before. No, it’s not “Great” but it is about affection and enjoyment.

253

engels 09.30.13 at 6:45 am

why not the howls of resistance to the Stones? (Surely just because they’re Brits?

No, because I only needed one example so I gave the Beastie Boys (could have just as well said the Stones although fwiw I actually like their music whereas I grew out of the Beastie Boys before I was 23).

254

Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.13 at 7:56 am

“Groundhog Day is a lovely movie. It’s Bunuel with a sunny personality”

Groundhog Day is didactic in your face, how can that be lovely? And, sorry, Bill Murray is annoying. Yeah, deadpan delivery, I get it. But after a while it becomes as interesting a schtick as Bobcat Goldthwait’s.

255

Karakuri Kovacs 09.30.13 at 8:14 am

[i]Everyone says George Lucas got worse. He didn’t get worse. He just didn’t get any better.[/i]

Bullshit. Also, lazy. Do revisit (or visit, if you were savvy enough not to watch when it came out) [i]Kingdom of the Crystall Skull [/i], then explain how it is not twenty stairs of shit-awfully worse.

256

Phil 09.30.13 at 8:24 am

If you mean that these men were all popular artists trying to work within the commercial studio system, that’s true. But in an earlier era feature films were generally aimed at a target demographic consisting mostly of mature women. Now, it’s adolescent males of all ages.

That’s two shifts rather than one, and I think Spielberg & Lucas have some responsibility for both of them. Firstly, I think it’s true that before the mid- to late 70s you didn’t pitch a mainstream film at an adolescent audience; they could have Beach Blanket Bingo, but proper films were for grown-ups (of both sexes). Even kids’ films – or family films, as they were known – would typically have a romantic sub-plot, presumably pitched at the women who were taking their kids along. I remember thinking American Graffiti was weird in its focus on the kids, and Grease appealed to me about as much as watching a play put on by the cool kids at school. (Although if you watch it now, Grease looks pretty grown-up in places. Contains adult themes.) For completeness, 1978 also gave us Animal House, inaugurating the other kind of film aimed at adolescent males – directed by John Landis, who isn’t George Lucas but was friends with him. Responsibility? There obviously was a real demographic shift happening – Star Wars, Raiders and the rest wouldn’t have been so successful if they hadn’t been kicking at an open door – but Spielberg and Lucas kicked that open door pretty damn hard.

But the big shift is the one represented by that phrase “adolescent males of all ages” – i.e. grown men indulging in the tastes of their 15-year-old selves. That wasn’t a serious cultural phenomenon when I was growing up, let alone a film-going audience. And when it comes to telling the world that it’s OK for grownups to enjoy childish films, Lucas & Spielberg have had more influence than anyone I can think of (with Landis in third place).

OK, now nobody mention Joss Whedon and I’ll get out of this comment with my argument intact. Damn!

257

praymont 09.30.13 at 8:28 am

Beetlejuice only shows up once in this thread?! These next two weren’t blockbusters but I really liked Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul and Into the Night. The most awkward movie experience for me in the early 80s (or late 70s?) was the re-release of Barbarella. Originally released in 1968, some genius had the idea to distribute it to cinemas some time between the first two Star Wars movies. This happened at least in Toronto — not sure if it happened elsewhere in North America. The movie was marketed as another scifi adventure movie. My Dad took me to see it when I was about 12. Very unnerving.

258

praymont 09.30.13 at 8:53 am

Correction: the Barbarella re-release must’ve been in the late 70s since the first 2 Star Wars movies were before 1980.

259

Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.13 at 9:00 am

“Firstly, I think it’s true that before the mid- to late 70s you didn’t pitch a mainstream film at an adolescent audience”

That’s exactly right, I think. They discovered a new, better way to make money: packaging and marketing their shit for the minors.

260

Niall McAuley 09.30.13 at 9:21 am

No love for the 1980 Flash Gordon movie? It came out a year before Raiders, and was also an action packed homage/rip-off/parody of the old serials.

A great cast, too, apart from Flash and Dale.

“No! Not the bore worms!”

I could have done without the Queen soundtrack at the time, but now it fixes the movie in the 80s.

261

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 09.30.13 at 10:38 am

“Nirvana fans, for example, often turned into Pixies fans.”

One of the great things about Kurt Cobain is that he always wore his influences on his sleeve; from the obvious (Pixies) to the obscure (The Raincoats, The Vaselines). And he would proselytise about them, and cover them, and tell his fans how great they were, hopefully inspiring some of them to listen to some great music they probably never would have heard of.

262

Ronan(rf) 09.30.13 at 10:46 am

I will say, as hard as I’ve tried, I have found David Lynch to be unwatchable. Blue Velvet from the 80s, but Mullholland Drive, Eraserhead, Inland Empire..
Can any one mount a defence of his films? I’ll try give it another go now that I’m older and wiser

263

Anon 09.30.13 at 11:33 am

Ronan, leaving aside the more difficult debate about artistic value, I’ve always found Lynch just plain enjoyable. That’s not a defense. Maybe you just have to share the eccentricities of his sense of humor, obsessions, and tastes.

You might start with The Straight Story, which is exactly that: a perfectly straightforward story, without any of his usual weirdness. It may give you a different sense of who Lynch is and what he’s trying to do. It reveals that he’s neither the otherworldly genius madman nor the pretentious obfuscating charlatan he’s often made out to be.

Or you could start with Twin Peaks, and keep in mind that it is both a parody of soap opera and a real soap opera, and as much comedy and horror as drama. It’s most fun if you don’t take it too seriously. But then once you start to enjoy it, you realize that on another level, he’s deadly serious.

I think this is true of most of his movies, especially Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. They’re hard to enjoy if you take them too seriously–Lynch has a weird but honest sense of humor. Often people read into them too much, but there’s also a basic midwestern plainspokenness to him, which confuses people looking for a more sophisticated subtext (what does it all mean? What’s the real solution? What’s he saying behind what he’s saying?). Often the subtext is charmingly unapologically sincere and naive. (See for example, the Blue Velvet scene when the birds return: “Wook at the pwetty birds Fwancine.” I don’t think that’s mockery, Lynch means it.)

In the end, I really can’t explain why I enjoy him–and why in some cases I don’t (Lost Highway, I cannot enjoy you!). But I think expectations and preconceptions often interfere with enjoying his movies, primarily the demand for a level of artistic sophistication he’s not really interested in providing.

264

Anon 09.30.13 at 11:36 am

P.S., speaking of taking Lynch too seriously, did anyone see his short-lived, co-produced sitcom “On the Air” around the time of Twin Peaks? Unadulterated silliness and nothing but. (I recall liking it.)

265

Torquil Macneil 09.30.13 at 12:05 pm

I think we can let Raiders off on the melting Nazis front, Indiana Jones didn’t know that Nazis would be liquidised when he was chasing after the Ark. What sinks it for me is that the movie asks us to believe that an academic archeologist discovers an artifact that establishes once and for all the existence of god and he doesn’t publish!

266

Trader Joe 09.30.13 at 12:09 pm

I’m late to this strand, so maybe it was hit above….

The films of the 1980s and really only the first half of the 1980s were among the last films made in the pre CGI era. This isn’t terribly important for drama and comedy, but for action films and SciFi- its fair to say they don’t make’em like that anymore.

An assortment of negatives can be levels on Indy, but the stuntmaking was A++ first rate. Watch the out-takes and making of that film – the film craft and filming techniques created from scratch to make some of those scenes – particularly the chase scene toward the end were unprecedented at that time – and wholly unnecessary not long after.

I’d far rather watch Indy Jones than Transformers or most of the “Action hero” genre which we get inundated with annually. There are a couple of decent Spidey movies and maybe someday there will be more, I just don’t need to see one every year. I’d far rather someone take a fresh stab at the “Indy” genre than yet another Spiderman.

That said, you’d have to actually film Indy, arrange stunts and be on site or build elaborate sets -whereas half of Spiderman can be done with a green screen and a room full of computer kids. Don’t get me wrong – the later is technically awesome too, just a different generation of movie making that is hard to compare with action flicks of the 1970s/80s.

I’d concur with some that the 1970s was on balance a better movie decade than the 1980s but produced some quite enduring films.

267

Hector_St_Clare 09.30.13 at 12:21 pm

Barry Freed,

Which was it based on, the first one?

The first one is the most troubling for me because of the rape scenes. I loved the ‘Mountain of Light’ one though, which is where he introduces Harlan. The ‘Great Game’ is really good too (and features him behaving a bit out of character at the end).

268

Barry Freed 09.30.13 at 12:34 pm

“Royal Flash,” the title’s the same for the book and the movie. That was the Prisoner of Zenda one.

269

Hector_St_Clare 09.30.13 at 12:38 pm

Who played Lola Montez?

270

Phil 09.30.13 at 1:06 pm

Often the subtext is charmingly unapologically sincere and naive. (See for example, the Blue Velvet scene when the birds return

When I saw Blue Velvet, the audience laughed. They really laughed – they laughed at the opening montage, they laughed at Dean Stockwell doing In Dreams, they laughed at Kyle MacLachlan hiding in the wardrobe, they laughed at Dennis Hopper huffing… Well, maybe not so much at that bit. But it lightened up again towards the end – when Isabella Rossellini comes in naked and nobody reacts, that got a big laugh. When the robin came back and Laura Dern was doing that weird Laura-Dern-in-slow-motion thing, we were on the home stretch and hilarity was unbounded. As for the closing montage… the closing montage was just about the funniest thing that audience had seen since, well, ever. Coming out, I almost wanted to go and see it again, properly. Thinking about it, though, nervous laughter is quite a common reaction to being put on the spot and freaked out – and if ever a film could provoke gales of nervous laughter, Blue Velvet is it.

271

DaveL 09.30.13 at 1:24 pm

LFC @223. … it strikes me as *highly* unlikely/incredible that The Man Who Would Be King is about “the idiocy and hubris of imperialism.”

While Kipling was certainly a supporter of imperialism, he was also aware of its idiocies and hubris. If you read his poetry there is a fair percentage that’s about people being “idiotic/hubristic imperialists.” The two adventurers in the story and movie are examples of the idealistic and the “looting” variety, and neither comes off very well.

As for whether it’s “a serious movie”

I don’t think it’s “a serious movie,” but just a more serious movie than Raiders.

Sorry for being slow to respond on this.

Barry Freed @246. There’s another good book about the Great Game: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk. One gets a real feel for the courage of the British and Russian “agents,” but also plenty of evidence that the whole thing was founded on false premises and a total waste of lives and energy.

Hector St Clare @ 269. Florinda Bolkin, Brazilian actress. Not a name to conjure with as far as I know, though perhaps in Brazil… Her screen debut appears to have been in Candy. There’s a blast from the past.

272

Jeffrey Davis 09.30.13 at 1:27 pm

Lynch directed “Elephant Man”, and it’s the sweetest movie I’ve ever seen. Merrick’s ecstasy at the play he’s taken to: Heaven. But people respond to different things. I love the copper colored water during the credits to Twin Peaks. I’ve ascribed that to Lynch, but who knows? I once thought “Mulholland Falls” was supposed to be a patchwork of stories inspired by pictures from 1950’s pulp magazines — movie fan magazines, cheap “men’s” magazines like True or Argosy, but Lynch’s own explanations of how he makes movies makes an attempt to “read” them seem pointless.

273

bill benzon 09.30.13 at 1:48 pm

” What sinks it for me is that the movie asks us to believe that an academic archeologist discovers an artifact that establishes once and for all the existence of god and he doesn’t publish!”

LOL!

274

Belle Waring 09.30.13 at 3:08 pm

Hector: Which was it based on, the first one? The first one is the most troubling for me because of the rape scenes.

OMG you guys, Hector finds it difficult to read the first Flashman novel with much pleasure because the hero rapes a woman! I demand a list of books which you approve of or disapprove of on this basis immediately Hector. And what if it’s not a real rape scene? In this case it’s not entirely clear that Flashman intends to rape her since the woman is given to him by his host in a land where different customs and laws apply, as a gesture of hospitality, along with the best food they could provide, and an excellent room. Moreover, the Flashman novels aren’t set in the present day. Would Flashy’s fellow officers have judged this behavior to be rape, or simply a bit of a rough-around-the-edges acceptance of a gift by a mysterious, proud Pashtun Lord, who might well take offense had Flashman appeared not to enjoy the hospitality on offer? The latter, and with no dissenters, I think it’s fair to say. You have a lot of explaining to do Mr. St. Clare (if that is your name); I suggest that you begin immediately. Iliad: yea or nay? Briseis is going to get raped by some Greek, it’s just a matter of who. You may leave out the Epic of Gilgamesh but otherwise you better take it from the top.

275

Belle Waring 09.30.13 at 3:09 pm

273: I joined in the LOLs

276

Hector_St_Clare 09.30.13 at 3:14 pm

Belle Waring, there’s only one actual rape scene, but you forget the scene where he attempts to rape his father’s lover.

277

LFC 09.30.13 at 3:23 pm

DaveL @271
I don’t think it’s “a serious movie,” but just a more serious movie than Raiders.

Fair enough.

278

John Holbo 09.30.13 at 3:34 pm

[Munches popcorn.]

Carry on!

279

MikeJake 09.30.13 at 3:38 pm

Most of the good horror and action flicks came out in the 80s. Good makeup and stuntwork then, instead of relying on mediocre CGI.

Predator may not have been a deep movie, but it was an absolute masterpiece of testosterone.

280

Belle Waring 09.30.13 at 3:39 pm

Wait, so we’re judging the fictional character, based on his intention to commit rape, which makes him so unsympathetic as a narrator that the book as it goes on–especially with him then actually raping someone–that the novel is one you don’t really enjoy, although you’ve read it? Is that where we’re headed?

I’m Audi 5000 people, it’s bedtime. Someone else pick up the truncheon of ineluctable logic that explains how Hector and I have identical views about interpreting/enjoying literature.

281

MPAVictoria 09.30.13 at 3:41 pm

Don’t just sit there on the sidelines John! You are the one who started all this with your scurrilous accusations regarding the quality of Raiders and Beverly Hills Cop.

282

agorabum 09.30.13 at 3:56 pm

Saw Raiders not too long ago, randomly on TV, and was actually surprised at how well it held up. I thought the pacing was superb; it really rollicked along, especially near the end (snakes, trucks, planes, propellers, subs, face-melting ghosts).
The beginning intro (the boulder roll) and the very end (ark in the endless warehouse) are also epic – combined they set a bar that is tough to beat.
And if you say Lucas didn’t get any worse, watch Indiana Jones 4. C’mon.

283

Random Lurker 09.30.13 at 4:25 pm

@Belle
I propose the simplest interpretation, that is that Hector is really a Catholic, not for show, and as such actually cares for family values.
Next, he will say that while women’s just role in the world is more humble than men’s, it is really much more important and valuable , and that the real fault of the Santa Monica partyers is to transform important and morally superior would be mothers in stupid and morally inferior flashmen.

284

godoggo 09.30.13 at 4:36 pm

Anglican. Try to keep up.

285

Ronan(rf) 09.30.13 at 4:41 pm

Thanks Anon
I’ve actually seen The Straight Story, now that I think about it, and enjoyed it (afaicr) Twin Peaks was a little before my time, but I’ve seen bits and pieces so will check it out properly..
‘Unwatchable’ might have been a little strong on my part. Inland Empire was the most recent of his films I’ve watched and I did enjoy it in some ways, but I was stuck throughout with the feeling that (a) I really didnt have a clue what was going on and (b) I probably should!
I’ll rewatch one of them again with your advice at hand though, so thanks!

286

primedprimate 09.30.13 at 4:44 pm

I saw Temple of Doom as a child (I was maybe 8 years old) in India. I am not sure I even knew enough to identify a movie as racist at the time, but I remember being extremely shocked and offended.

I have a hard time being objective about other Indiana Jones movies because of that childhood scarring.

287

Random Lurker 09.30.13 at 4:48 pm

Oops. ..
Sorry, Anglican.

288

Random Lurker 09.30.13 at 4:57 pm

Incidentally, no irony intended on Hector

289

Ronan(rf) 09.30.13 at 5:03 pm

No way would Hector do the ironing. It’s biology, init

290

Ronan(rf) 09.30.13 at 5:11 pm

Cleanthes @136

Initially I thought you were agreeing with my argument that, artistically, TLC were as accomplished as Cavafy, but reading back I’m not so sure..? (ps I say that not to attack Cavafy but to give TLC their dues)

291

Anon 09.30.13 at 5:15 pm

Phil @270: “They really laughed – they laughed at the opening montage, they laughed at Dean Stockwell doing In Dreams, they laughed at Kyle MacLachlan hiding in the wardrobe, they laughed at Dennis Hopper huffing… Well, maybe not so much at that bit.”

I had a very funny friend who enjoyed imitating Hopper’s huffing scene–constantly, compulsively and hilariously. I hadn’t seen the movie yet, so my I went into it expecting really dark comedy, which I guess it is. But I think he ruined the unbearable creepiness of that scene a bit.

Oh, speaking of 80s movies and Hopper:

The River’s Edge!

292

AcademicLurker 09.30.13 at 5:32 pm

Speaking of decades and film qulaity, the Coen brothers got started in the 80s. That has to count for something.

293

AcademicLurker 09.30.13 at 5:33 pm

quality

294

Hector_St_Clare 09.30.13 at 7:50 pm

Random Lurker,

You’re more or less correct. I find it remarkable that Belle Waring is apparently surprised that I object to rape scenes in books perpetrated by a figure with whom we are supposed to identify.

295

ISOK 09.30.13 at 8:01 pm

At the risk of coming across as hopelessly ignorant / uncultured — is Lawrence Olivier a “great” actor? Because I see Daniel Day Lewis and he makes Olivier seem like a drama club hack. Like the-cast-of-Frasier-in-a-special-period-piece-episode-level hack.

Clearly I’m missing something. I just simply can’t recognize that type of acting as great since it seems so contrived. I see more of Olivier’s style in Jack Black’s caricatured facial expressions than in any actor I would consider good or great today.

Also, Medieval artists couldn’t draw in three dimensions!

All the above relates to the topic at hand, I promise. I’m just not sure if “greatness” is synonymous with “holds up well.”

– ISOK

296

Substance McGravitas 09.30.13 at 8:11 pm

I find it remarkable that Belle Waring is apparently surprised that I object to rape scenes in books perpetrated by a figure with whom we are supposed to identify.

Evolution doesn’t demand identification with blustering rapists?

297

Luke 09.30.13 at 8:13 pm

@285

Yeah, I think Raiders is a bit like that, too. Even the famous scene where Indy shoots the swordsman has a bit of a ‘mystifying, baroque Orient defeated and rendered ridiculous by rational Western man’ thing going on. Perhaps it’s something to do with its the pulp heritage.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that the films depict artefacts of the Abrahamic faith with real, honest-to-God-magic-powers where other religions are just insane, sadistic superstition. American film and TV does that kind of thing a lot, actually.

298

David Alex 09.30.13 at 8:58 pm

Sancho 09.28.13 at 7:19 pm

Well, shit.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Eight-Lives-Ka-Bong-Leong/dp/0615384994

Woah, I’m gonna have to check that out.

I’m surprised to not see any love whatsoever for John Sayles here. What, Eight Men Out not mainstream enough? Matewan not thrilling enough? The Brother From Another Planet not just flat-out awesome and singularly “80s” enough? I know he never had the box office of Spielberg or Lucas or McTiernan, but still, it’s weird how forgotten he’s become…

Die Hard has aged really well, I think in large part thanks to Willis redefining the action hero by injecting loads of witty incredulity into the overblown movie scenario he finds himself in. The banter (and its delivery) is also just so much better than the competition. Maybe it owes some of that to Indiana Jones? There’s plenty of memorable bits for the “Cannon Fodder” too. I remember Al Leong greedily hoarding milk-duds during the S.W.A.T. invasion.

In contrast, I finally saw all the Lethal Weapons a couple years ago and couldn’t get into them. I can take all the smug self-satisfaction of the movies’ treatments of topical issues, and I even kind of like how clumsy and incongruous the fit of the fuzzy bits is with the unstoppable killing machine action tropes, it’s the attempts at comedy that mostly ruin it, mainly due to Gibson. I don’t think it’s a lack of commitment and like him elsewhere, but it’s just not in his range to do “self-aware screwball” or whatever he was going for there, he just looks lost a lot of the time. For that matter so does Pesci in the later sequels. By the fourth one you have Chris Rock phoning in a tired stand-up routine about cell phones and “Chinese people talk funny” jokes. Poor Jet Li. At least the fight in a moving pre-fab was good.

Besides Sayles, my short list of great directors in the 80s would include Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Gillian Armstrong (High Tide and Starstruck rule!), Juzo Itami, Peter Greenaway, (particularly his series of procedurals about the Japanese Revenue Authority, but most famously Tampopo). Joe Dante and Brian DePalma are great, I don’t care what anyone says about them being empty stylists who waste their talents on homage Producing the two Gremlins movies (both of which make fun of him) is probably the best thing Spielberg did in the 80s. Danny DeVito deserves a shout-out for Throw Momma From the Train. Ann Hui for Boat People.

I haven’t seen the first three Indiana Jones movies in ages, but I think I agree with whoever said Spielberg and Lucas didn’t getting worse, but they didn’t get better either. Not just as directors but as technical innovators as well. Weta has left ILM way behind and didn’t Dreamworks spend a decade and a half trying to compete with PIXAR by doing ugly cg fish and ants with rotoscoped celebrity faces?

299

David Alex 09.30.13 at 9:01 pm

whoops, mixed up Greenaway and Itami in that post. Not that the formers take on Tampopo wouldn’t be interesting. Or maybe that’s what The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover was.

300

novakant 09.30.13 at 9:15 pm

Jeffrey Davis – I think you might confusing Mulholland Falls and Mulholland Drive, no?

301

Jeffrey Davis 09.30.13 at 9:20 pm

re: 297

Thanks.

Mulholland Falls seems like another descendant of Argosy and True.

302

Bill Benzon 09.30.13 at 9:42 pm

@primedprimate: I agree w/ you about Temple of Doom. I saw it as an adult (as I saw all the Indy films), and I was appalled at it, especially the monkey brains scene.

I also very much liked The Man Who Would be King.

303

Random Lurker 09.30.13 at 10:33 pm

@Hector 294

But you certainly realise that for a very long period of time the theory that women have a different role than men was used to put women in contexts where they had no defence from that and other forms of abuse.

304

mds 09.30.13 at 11:42 pm

Luke @ 297:

Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that the films depict artefacts of the Abrahamic faith with real, honest-to-God-magic-powers where other religions are just insane, sadistic superstition.

Er, while I agree with the primedprimate / Bill Benzon criticisms, I’m less sure about this one. If there are Abrahamic faiths that have genuinely magical lingam stones in them, or [grits teeth] psychic alien crystal skulls for that matter, I must have missed those parts.

… Come to think of it, now that I’ve been forced to think about Indiana Jones IV again, perhaps the introduction of alien intelligences into the Jonesiverse can be retconned into explaining the “supernatural” elements in the previous three films.

“Xqkl, did you remember to retrieve the Hand of Omega Ark of the Covenant before we left?”

“Well, there was a sandstorm …”

“Oh, Xqkl.”

“Hey, at least I didn’t lose track of the Cup of Medical Nanotech, like ZZrp here.”

“Excuse me if I was a tiny bit preoccupied with taking ‘Shiva’ and ‘Kali’ into custody.”

305

Luke 09.30.13 at 11:56 pm

@304

Fair enough. It’s been a long time since I saw the original films, so my memory might be playing tricks on me.

306

DaveL 10.01.13 at 12:00 am

Luke @ 297. I must have missed that. I’m pretty much 100% sure Raiders didn’t suggest that, with decreasing probability for the later ones. My guess is if the Nazis had tried to steal the Black Stone (of the Kaaba), it would have zapped them, as far as the metaphysics of the Indyverse were concerned.

Where o where is “Indiana Jones and the Golden Plates of Moroni”?

307

LFC 10.01.13 at 1:43 am

ISOK@295
At the risk of coming across as hopelessly ignorant / uncultured — is … Olivier a “great” actor?… I’m just not sure if “greatness” is synonymous with “holds up well.”

Well, greatness may not always be synonymous w “holds up well,” and this may be esp true when it comes to screen acting, where styles have changed quite a lot over time.

However, Olivier was a great stage actor, including, as I was reminded just now by Wikipedia, the legendary feat of doing Oedipus Rex and Sheridan’s The Critic in the same evening. (The same entry reminded that his Hotspur and Justice Shallow, in Henry IV Pts 1 and 2, w Ralph Richardson as Falstaff, is considered one of the English stage’s high pts of the 20th cent.)

Re on screen: in ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1939), which used to be something of a TV staple decades ago, his Heathcliff is maybe a bit over-the-top but it doesn’t matter. (Merle Oberon, David Niven, and Geraldine Fitzgerald also in the cast.) ‘Rebecca’ is not too memorable but he is quite good in it, iirc. I think the only Shakespeare movie of his I’ve seen is Richard III, tho cd be wrong about that. And Wikipedia reminded me of ‘Sleuth’ (1972), which is good.

Olivier was not a method actor, which may be one reason he seems mannered or dated to you. But yes, a great actor. In terms of mastery of a character and the way, to be blunt or simplistic about it, the words come out of the mouth, one of the great actors of the 20th cent.

308

Nathanael 10.01.13 at 2:24 am

Raiders of the Lost Ark was *original*. Its structure seems trite now, after decades of copies, but it was an original structure at the time. In this era of Blake “Save the Cat” Synder formula movies, we don’t get original very often.

There is credit to the writers and director for being the first — everyone else is just… copycats. In short, it’s no criticism to say that a movie succeeded by “first mover advantage” — in fact, it’s a tremendous compliment. Academic Lurker points out a lot of the things which were original in _Raiders_, many of which did not persist in the copycats.

Also, there’s a funny thing about memory for movies and TV. People remember the beginning and ending of movies, not the middle. Raiders of the Lost Ark has an *exceptional* opening scene, and an *exceptional* closing scene. (You still remember them, don’t you?) Therefore it will always hold up better than a movie with a bad opening and a bad closing.

The closing scene in particular is a brilliant piece of accurate satire. The Lost Ark is more lost in a government warehouse than it was when protected by snakes and whatnot. (And no, the ending is completely different from the ending of Citizen Kane, not even related in tone or meaning.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is often playing tropes straight, but it’s sending them up or deconstructing them equally often, and particularly with the ending, which still makes me think after all these years.

“So a) if Dr Jones had just stayed at home and not wasted all that time, the result would have been the same anyway,”…
Of course! This sort of cynical humor is, in fact, what makes the movie work. If the entire mission had had any sort of real use, that would completely undercut the movie’s message.

“I thought about it and said I liked Wreck-It Ralph and The Croods way better this year. They’re action films, but put together better.”

Except they’re (a) not original, they’re repetitive, and (b) they don’t have great openings, and (c) they don’t have great closings. So think about it… they won’t become famous. They’re like mass-produced chairs; sure, they’re put together better than the handcrafted chair, but they’re disposable.

Another way of putting this is: if you think a movie is a “pretty good film” *over 30 years* after it came out, it’s a great film. Holding up over time really is the test of greatness.


The Princess Bride is a pretty brilliant movie. It had the advantage of being based on an *extremely* brilliant book (the book is spectacular) and being adapted by the original writer — who happened to be more than slightly format-savvy and genre-savvy, and there are long digressions on the nature of the film industry in the original book! I actually have some trouble with the movie because I read the book first, and as always, the book is better.

On the other hand, the absolute best movie of the 1970s gets less respect than it should — Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which is didactic in the extreme, but *correct historically* about everything it’s being didactic about. Talk about heavily quoted movies, by the way….

309

Hector_St_Clare 10.01.13 at 2:43 am

Re: Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that the films depict artefacts of the Abrahamic faith with real, honest-to-God-magic-powers where other religions are just insane, sadistic superstition.

You’ve got to be kidding. I have a flash for Crooked Timber: religious people think that their religion is right, and the other guys are out to lunch. I think Christianity is founded by God: I certainly don’t think the same of Hinduism, though there may be some genuine spiritual thruths mixed with a lot of error. It’s hard to look at something like the caste system and not see ‘insane, sadistic superstition’ (to say nothing of the murderous cult on which ‘Temple of Doom’ is based, who really existed, although they were dead and gone a little less than a century before the movie is set.)

Heaven forbid anyone should believe their religion is better or truer than anyone else’s.

Re: On the other hand, the absolute best movie of the 1970s gets less respect than it should — Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which is didactic in the extreme, but *correct historically* about everything it’s being didactic about.

I’m as religious as the next man, but I can appreciate great art even when it pokes a bit of fun at my faith, and Life of Brian is certainly that.

310

Suzanne 10.01.13 at 3:57 am

@295: In re: “Lawrence” Olivier. Yes, you are missing something. (As for Day-Lewis – the man exposes more hambone with each recent performance, for which the critics drown him in accolades. It gives me no pleasure to write that.)

Contra #307, I think Olivier isn’t very good in “Rebecca” (which is one of Hitchcock’s most famous films, although not a big favorite of mine). His Heathcliff is too sensitive, not scary enough, but that suits the 1939 “Wuthering Heights,” which is lousy Bronte but a fine example of Hollywood romantic drama, marred by the producer Samuel Goldwyn’s regarding the picture primarily as a vehicle for Merle Oberon (who’s mostly awful, BTW).

Olivier’s greatest stage performance and the one which cemented his reputation as a classical actor was said to be his “Richard III.” He’s wonderful in his film version, but reportedly it didn’t come close to what he did with the role onstage. His “Macbeth” was arguably the greatest ever (he was unable to find funding to make a movie of it).

Probably Olivier’s greatest performance on film is his Hurstwood in “Carrie,” adapted from the Dreiser novel, and for my money it’s one of the best male performances ever committed to celluloid. He was also perfect as Darcy in the very imperfect 1940 “Pride and Prejudice.”

Like many actors of his era, Olivier tended to work from the outside in rather than the inside out. I think it’s a cliche to say that actors who worked in this traditional way are by definition more “dated” or “mannered” than the Method actors (who had their own share of mannerisms and who now look similarly dated on their bad days). I don’t think it necessarily matters in terms of the quality of what got on the screen. Michael Redgrave’s performance in “The Browning Version” is a superb and subtle one, perfectly scaled to the camera.

Which is not to say that differences between actors bred for film and those with a high theatrical style never show themselves. “Sleuth” is no masterpiece and goes on for much too long, but if you have patience you can enjoy the stylistic contrast between Michael Caine, a born actor for the camera, and Olivier. But Olivier was a fine actor in pictures. He could be hammy at times but I suspect that would have been the case if he’d abandoned the stage after becoming a big romantic movie star in “Wuthering Heights” and “Rebecca.”

311

LFC 10.01.13 at 3:27 pm

Probably Olivier’s greatest performance on film is his Hurstwood in “Carrie,” adapted from the Dreiser novel, and for my money it’s one of the best male performances ever committed to celluloid.

I’ll have to see that, assuming it’s on DVD and assuming I acquire a working DVD player, which is not high on my list of priorities right now (had a v. old one but it’s not functional any more).

312

LFC 10.01.13 at 3:38 pm

Like many actors of his era, Olivier tended to work from the outside in rather than the inside out. I think it’s a cliche to say that actors who worked in this traditional way are by definition more “dated” or “mannered” than the Method actors (who had their own share of mannerisms and who now look similarly dated on their bad days).

I often like the traditional, high theatrical (as you call it) style. I was just responding to ISOK@295’s reaction and attempting to partly explain it (yes, split infinitive). We agree that ISOK is “missing something.” Indeed, his/her comparison of Olivier to Jack Black is grotesque.

313

Phil 10.01.13 at 4:35 pm

the ending is completely different from the ending of Citizen Kane

Apart from it being the closing scene of a movie in which everyone has been obsessing about a mysterious object, and picturing the said object being lost in a crate among lots of other crates. It’s a quote, basically – and if you google “citizen kane” “raiders of the lost ark” you’ll see I’m not the first person to notice it.

314

Phil 10.01.13 at 6:38 pm

Also, this:

if you think a movie is a “pretty good film” *over 30 years* after it came out, it’s a great film. Holding up over time really is the test of greatness.

is at once too broad and too narrow – as it effectively limits the category of greatness to films you’ve seen more than once and with a gap of 30 years between the first and last time, but also extends it to films you didn’t actually think were great. I’ve seen O lucky man! seven times (possibly eight), but only over a period of 20 years (I haven’t seen it in ages), and I thought it was a great film every time. Dr Strangelove, Orphée, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Phantom of Liberty, The Ladykillers – some films are great the first time you see them, and the last.

315

David (Kid Geezer). 10.01.13 at 6:49 pm

Could be because it wasn’t all that great to begin with. Raiders of the Lost Car Park as my spouse called it. The most boring exciting movie ever. Spielberg is almost the Neal Stephenson of film. That’s not a good thing.

316

phosphorious 10.01.13 at 9:59 pm

Have you really been discussing 80’s movies without talking about Scorsese (Raging Bull, After Hours, Last Temptation of Christ, King of Comedy)?

And 80’s music without talking about Prince?

MADNESS!

317

Barry Freed 10.01.13 at 10:15 pm

After Hours! Great film that.

I’ve seen O lucky man! seven times

Wow, Phil, I love Lindsay Anderson (Tremors and joking aside, my tastes run far closer to yours than you’d think from my comments) and I’ve seen it myself maybe three times (it’s also been decades since the last viewing) but I remember it being a very hard film to stomach.

318

Phil 10.01.13 at 10:38 pm

The first few times I saw the version without the suicide sequence; that, and the wasteland sequence which follows it, are pretty grim. But the ending redeems it all, for me – the main character gets it. It’s one of the all-time great endings to a film, IMO – up there with “Mein Führer! I can walk!”

Maybe it’s just me. I discovered the other day that my wife & son both find the theme song dark & depressing, blackly comic at best.

If you have a friend on whom you think you can rely
You are a lucky man
If you’ve found a reason to live on and not to die
You are a lucky man…

I’ve always thought it’s wonderful – bracing, admittedly, but genuinely inspiring.

The preachers and the poets and the scholars don’t know it
The temples and the statues and the steeples don’t show it
If you’ve got the secret, just try not to blow it,
Stay a lucky man!

319

Barry Freed 10.01.13 at 10:56 pm

It’s one of the all-time great endings to a film, IMO – up there with “Mein Führer! I can walk!”

You may have just changed the way I view this film. Damn you, now I’m going to have to watch it again to be sure. That scene in that hospital facility was so frightening it’s haunted me for decades.

320

js. 10.02.13 at 4:24 am

And 80′s music without talking about Prince?

MADNESS!

I linked to “Billie Jean” _way_ up above. Which, obviously not Prince. But if I am guessing the underlying sentiment right, I would agree that there’s been way too much wanking off on the “alternative rock” stuff, where I want to be like: No, seriously, you need to go put on some Thriller/Purple Rain.

(N.B.: My love of Surfer Rosa is second to none. And just let me know any time you want to talk some English Settlement.)

321

Substance McGravitas 10.02.13 at 4:33 am

322

js. 10.02.13 at 4:54 am

As in, a ton of them suck? Which, fair enough. But you could do this for almost any year, I’d think. The (rightly) celebrated ’77 gave us Margaritaville. Fucking Margaritaville!

323

Alan 10.02.13 at 4:59 am

Someone eventually will take rich threads like this one, strip out all the commentator’s names to blend the text into one rambling narrative, and Ulysses II will be born.

Suggested pseudonymous author–R.E. Joyce

324

Phil 10.02.13 at 8:54 am

That scene in that hospital facility was so frightening it’s haunted me for decades.

I’d forgotten that. Don’t know what that says about me – I didn’t think I had a very strong stomach for horror, body horror least of all. I’ll have to watch it again myself now.

325

Ronan(rf) 10.02.13 at 9:26 am

Speaking of Whitney Huston, this is amazing

http://jakefogelnest.com/post/17460767716

326

Walt 10.02.13 at 9:33 am

Prince is not of the 80s. He is of the ages.

327

Ronan(rf) 10.02.13 at 12:27 pm

Also Once Upon a Time in America from the 80s, and Sergio Leone in general. Terrence Malick coming back to form in the 90s.
And Steven Soderbergh at his best is as good as any of them (out of sight is as good as anything in the 90s, Behind the Candelabra is further proof from the 10s)
These were/are great days.

328

Ronan(rf) 10.02.13 at 1:50 pm

Btw, as an addendum, I’m surprised ISOK’s iconoclastic post @ 295 comparing Laurence Olivier to Jack Black hasnt received more pushback
An astonishing,though hilarious, statement

329

MPAVictoria 10.02.13 at 2:53 pm

“Btw, as an addendum, I’m surprised ISOK’s iconoclastic post @ 295 comparing Laurence Olivier to Jack Black hasnt received more pushback
An astonishing,though hilarious, statement”

I like Jack Black.

330

Substance McGravitas 10.02.13 at 2:54 pm

Which, fair enough. But you could do this for almost any year, I’d think.

I’d argue that 1977 was a better year on the American chart.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billboard_Year-End_Hot_100_singles_of_1977

331

Substance McGravitas 10.02.13 at 2:58 pm

Thanks for the Whitney Houston link Ronan. Now I wanna hear an isolated “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.

332

jake the snake 10.02.13 at 3:25 pm

Admittedly, Polanski is a particularly noxious example, but if you deny yourself
the pleasure of much literature, art, film, etc. because of the character of the creator(s),
it strikes me as a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

John Carpenter’s timing was usually awful. Both “The Thing” and “Little China”
were too early to be hits, though the jokes could have been a lot better in “Little China”.

The real strength of “Beverly Hills Cops” was the reversal of “mighty whitey”, with Axel Foley being better than the locals.

There are great movies in every decade, and terrible movies also. Just as there are under-rated and over-rated movies. The Seventies as a decade are probably over-rated at least a little and the eighties under-rated.

You left “Gun Crazy” out of the list of movies from 1950.

333

Anon 10.02.13 at 5:14 pm

“there’s been way too much wanking off on the “alternative rock” stuff, where I want to be like: No, seriously, you need to go put on some Thriller/Purple Rain.”

They were given there due at the beginning. The discussion moved on because everybody agreed on them, so to flesh out the 80s vs 90s debate, we had to focus on more obscure examples.

Anyway, for 80s pop we should add: Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon’s Graceland.

334

Anon 10.02.13 at 5:14 pm

Sorry: “their due”

335

Ronan(rf) 10.02.13 at 8:31 pm

MPAVictoria
Yeah I dont mind him in bits and pieces, but a later day Laurence Olivier is a little much..

336

js. 10.03.13 at 4:20 am

I’d argue that 1977 was a better year on the American chart.

Looking just at the top 25 in each year (because after that my mind loses a clear grasp), I’d take 1985 over 1977: I lose “Margaritaville” and “Hotel California”, I get some Tears for Fears/A-ha that I quite like, and I swap a great Stevie Wonder song for another nearly as good. I still lose “Got to give it up” which is probably the best song out of all 50—but I’ll still take it.

More generally: I overall like music from the 70’s a lot more than music from the 80’s—a hell of a lot more. But I think as far as straight-up pop music goes, the better stuff from the 80’s (MJ, Prince, early Madonna, Lauper, etc.) beats the better pop from the 70’s hands down. That’s all I was trying to say. (This argument will fail miserably if you count soul albums like What’s Going On, Hot Buttered Soul, etc., as “straight up pop music”. The fact that I don’t may have something to do with the fact that I didn’t live through the era.)

337

js. 10.03.13 at 4:26 am

Anon. @333:

Fair enough. I guess I didn’t/don’t quite see where they were given their due, but alright. And it’s not as if I don’t like the “more obscure” stuff.

338

Substance McGravitas 10.03.13 at 8:15 am

I swap a great Stevie Wonder song for another nearly as good.

Head asploded.

339

Anon 10.03.13 at 12:53 pm

js @337: “I didn’t/don’t quite see where”

Yeah, it’s hard to find because brief and buried in the posts, but callingalltoasters raises your point @85, and I agree @90.

“This argument will fail miserably if you count soul albums like What’s Going On, Hot Buttered Soul, etc., as ‘straight up pop music’.”

Agreed, I didn’t think of including soul in pop. But if we do, I find it a tough call between the 70s and 80s. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Sly Stone are hard to beat. (But like Substance, I’m surprised by the claim that an 80s Stevie Wonder song is as good!)

Another point for the 80s, some of Tom Waits best albums, Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombone, and Bone Machine. Although a decade fight over Waits could be bloody.

340

partisan 10.04.13 at 10:08 pm

Some comments:

The greatest decade in the history of film is arguably 1955-1964, which includes vital work from Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock, Huston, Kubrick, Lumet, Mann, Preminger, Nicholas Ray, Sirk, Welles, Wilder, Lean, McKendrick, Powell, Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Naruse, Bresson, Dassin, Demy, Godard, Malle, Marker, Melville, Ophuls, Renoir, Rohmer, Tati, Truffaut, Satyajit Ray, Antonioni, Fellini, Rosselini, Rosi, Visconti, Bergman, Bunuel, Dreyer, Glauber Rocha, Polanski, Wajda, Kalatazov, Paradjanov, and Tarkovsky.

341

Ronan(rf) 10.05.13 at 12:18 am

Anon
I LOVE you, and your posts. Really
But no David Bowie?
Sweet Jesus

342

Ronan(rf) 10.05.13 at 1:11 am

We may as well wind down with this

Comments on this entry are closed.