Alex T: 10 80s Flicks You Need to See Before “Ready Player One”

Let’s face it: it’s pretty hard to find people who love pop culture more than COM students. So, no matter how much it pains you to admit it, you’re probably going to end up seeing Ready Player One in a few weeks. And whether you’re just there to hang out with friends, or you’re the kind of person who openly weeps by the end of the film (my deepest apologies to everyone in the theatre with me last Saturday), you’re gonna want to brush up on the films your parents always made you try to watch as a kid.

 

1. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

downloadOkay, even if you’re not trying to catch Spielberg’s latest blockbuster this weekend, Back to the Future is still a must if you want to maintain any semblance of geek street cred you think you possess. Marty McFly is a classic 80s protagonist who always seems to be running out of time…until he goes back in time and is tasked with ensuring his parents fall in love so he can continue to exist. This story coupled with killer score and design (his name is Marty McFly…of course he’s going to rock the freshest outfit known to man) makes for a film that defined a whole generation of nerds.

2. The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)

download-1For a little change of pace, (or if sci-fi, retro awesomeness isn’t really your jam) The Breakfast Club is another classic not to be missed. Five strangers, all stuck in Saturday detention, form an unbreakable bond by the end of the day. We’ve all heard the tagline: “They only met once, but it changed their lives forever.” Not only did it change their lives, it changed the lives of young audiences across the country. If you didn’t fall in love with the brain, the beauty, the jock, the rebel, or the recluse, I have to question whether or not you even have a heart in the first place.

3. Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)

download (1)This might seem like a strange choice to those who have never even seen the original Evil Dead, but you’ve just gotta trust me on this one. While it does rely on a lot of plot points and characters laid out in its predecessor, Evil Dead II is in a class of horror all its own. Ash and the gang are back at it again, slaying zombies and fighting curses in the same, gory style that’s a hallmark of all of Raimi’s films. However, where Evil Dead II stands apart is in a very unexpected place: its comedy. Most horror films do have the one off, snarky jokes made by the protagonist to keep the momentum up, but Evil Dead II makes fun of the form itself; Raimi admits that his story is ridiculous, and takes it a step further by acknowledging that fact in the film. It’s a parody and a love letter to the slasher horror genre, and a love letter we can still learn lessons from today.

4. Say Anything (Cameron Crowe, 1989)

download (2)We’ve all been there: a bright eyed, bushy tailed high school student, hopelessly in love with someone who won’t even give us the time of day.

…well, maybe that’s only me, BUT, this film still holds up, even if that isn’t your truth. John Cusack plays Lloyd, an unassuming recent high school grad who lands (and eventually loses) Diane, the girl of his dreams, played by Ione Skye. Written and directed with aplomb by Cameron Crowe, it’s hard not to fall in love everytime Cusack holds that boombox over his head. Because, at its core, Say Anything is about risking everything for someone or something we love; now, that’s a story that we can all relate to.

5. Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982)

download (3)We’ve all been there: a bright eyed, bushy tailed high school student, hopelessly in love with someone who won’t even give us the time of day.

…well, maybe that’s only me, BUT, this film still holds up, even if that isn’t your truth. John Cusack plays Lloyd, an unassuming recent high school grad who lands (and eventually loses) Diane, the girl of his dreams, played by Ione Skye. Written and directed with aplomb by Cameron Crowe, it’s hard not to fall in love everytime Cusack holds that boombox over his head. Because, at its core, Say Anything is about risking everything for someone or something we love; now, that’s a story that we can all relate to.

6. Star Wars, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (George Lucas, 1980)

download (2)Though it’s technically just on the cusp of the 80s, I would be remiss if I didn’t include what is, objectively, the best Star Wars film in the franchise (I will actually fight anyone who disagrees). The George Lucas train was just picking up steam with the release of A New Hope in 1977, but he really hit his stride with The Empire Strikes Back. It marks a deeper dive into the extensive universe he created, and a more meditative look at the characters we all grew to love in the previous film. George Lucas set the precedent for transmedia franchises with Star Wars, and it’s easy to see that Episode V was the beginning of his reign over late 20th century pop culture. Also, Lando Calrissian. Need I say more?

7. Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986)

download (6)Looking at films today, it tends to become a little difficult to see why, as a whole, we’re so obsessed with Tom Cruise. However, after taking a look at his breakout success in the 80s, we’re reminded of what he used to be and what he represented in a time when actors weren’t just pigeonholed into one type of character. That being said, he really did make a damn good action star, and there’s no better example of that than his performance in Top Gun supported by an incredible cast (Val Kilmer ftw) and a truly radical soundtrack (also Kenny Loggins ftw), Cruise led this movie to mainstream success and a lasting place in our hearts.

8. Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

download (7)I’m just going to come out and say it: Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I’m okay with that. Facts have rarely been popular opinions. The story is about an off duty cop, played by Bruce Willis, fighting a gang of terrorists that take over a CHRISTMAS EVE party he’s attending. What defines a Christmas movie if not time of year? In all seriousness, though, Die Hard is a masterclass in storytelling both visually and verbally. Even though it’s obviously not the Citizen Kane of 80s cinema, it is an all around good time for any occasion, but especially Christmas. Oh,and the definitive list of best Christmas films is:

1. Die Hard

2. Step Brothers

3. Gremlins

9. The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1984)

43266c1fe9eb27ef7c08fff88d5420e9Oh man, it looks like we’ve reached peak coolness. The Karate Kid is the template for any quality movie you can remember from the 80s: a lonely underdog (Ralph Macchio) learns karate from his elderly neighbor (Pat Morita) to beat the high school bully (William Zabka) and win the heart of the girl of his dreams (Elizabeth Shue). Throw in sharp dialogue, nuanced performances, and the best featured song in movie history (You’re the best…AROUND!!!), and you’ve got the classic that we all know and love today.

10. Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)

download (8)I’m bringing it all full circle with our last film on the list. Based on a story by Steven Spielberg, Goonies tells the story of a group of friends trying to find a hidden treasure so they can keep their houses from being destroyed to make room for an incoming country club. This movie holds a special place in my heart; it’s one of the few that I truly loved as a child. I remember watching it over and over for hours on end (and my parents were surprised that I’m a film major…), and that’s why I think we still love it now. It reminds us of what it was like to grow up. In reality, the Goonies are trying to save their innocence from being lost by losing the only group of friends they’ve ever had to a country club, the EPITOME of adult-ness!!! They’re just a group of outcasts and misfits (not unlike the group of outcasts and misfits most of us were a part of growing up) simply trying to spend what could be their last few hours together going on an adventure. And if that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will.

Alex: 7 Movies You Have To See (Or At Least Pretend to Have Seen) If You’re a Film and Television Major

I know what most of you are thinking, “What? Alex Tuchi, of all people, writing an incredibly niche blog post?” Well, set your ridicule and derision aside for the moment and realize what I’m trying to do here: save you! You know what they say: jobs in communication are always won and lost based on who you know. But to know people, you need to talk to them. And before you enter the harrowing world of small talk with Film and Television majors (dun dun dun), you’re going to need to be equipped with these seven films just to keep you from looking like the sweet, simple fool you’re pretending not to be (don’t worry; 90% of Film and Television majors haven’t seen these either).

1. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)

8 1:2Everyone has heard of this semi-autobiographical masterclass in storytelling and cinematography by Italian director Federico Fellini. But has anyone ever really seen it? Doubtful. When talking about it, though, you can be sure to bring up a few key plot points to trick your friends into thinking you have. Just talk about the steam bath, Guido’s love triangle, and that weird sequence where he meets a prostitute when he’s eight years old. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make a lot of sense either; you’re much more likely to see Marcello Mastroianni’s ugly mug (with a jawline that could cut glass) on your roommate’s poster than in the actual film. The beauty of 8 1/2 is the universal fact that no one has seen it, which means no one really wants to talk about it. So as long as you practice your “Oh yeah, I’ve totally seen that one,” nod, you should be good to go!

2. E.T. (Steven Spielberg)

ETWe all know the broad strokes of this Spielberg classic: an alien crash lands in this kid’s hometown and, for some reason, it’s this literal child’s job to help an extraterrestrial being to return home, possibly altering the future of humanity in irreversible ways. Also his bike flies? Anyway, the Big Thing™ to remember when discussing this movie is that you can never say it’s bad. No matter how hamfisted that acting is, how hackneyed the writing is, no matter how insanely bad the CGI is in the 2002 re-release, it is a masterpiece for it’s time. It is a genre defining, convention breaking powerhouse that should be treated with nothing but the utmost respect. And if you disagree…be sure to keep that to yourself. Hell hath no fury like a scorned Spielberg nerd.

3. Thunder Road (Jim Cummings)

Thunder RoadThere’s really no reason to have skipped this one. It’s a short film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2016. Following a snapshot in the life of a small town police officer after his mother passed away, Thunder Road is the kind of film that gives us all hope. After debuting it at Sundance, filmmaker Jim Cumming was given $150,000 to keep making short films in the same style. What Film and Television major isn’t searching for a deal that sweet?!? Its success story isn’t the only reason to watch it though. It paints a nuanced portrait of a broken man and toes the line between tragedy and comedy perfectly. It is, at its core, a reflection of the human existence. And that’s the whole reason we fell in love with movies, right?

4. Tangerine (Sean Baker)

TangerineEspecially after the recent success of critical darling The Florida Project (talk about an Oscar snub, @WillemDafoe), Sean Baker has been en route to become one of those filmmakers that comes once a generation. So it only makes sense that we pay homage to his 2015 breakout film, Tangerine. Other than a stellar script, outstandingly diverse cast in terms of racial and gender identity, and brilliant performances from a host of talented actors, it also holds the distinction of being the first mainstream film to make it into the box office while being shot on an iPhone. It looks like we’re living in the future, kiddos, and the future is a place where the next blockbuster could be shot all on the little camera in your pocket. Baker deserves a round of applause for showing us that it can be done.

5. Brick (Rian Johnson)

BrickA trend that we Film and Television majors love to brag about is the fact that more and more “arthouse” filmmakers are being signed on to make big budget flicks with some of the biggest studios in Hollywood. The biggest example of this occurrence in recent memory is Rian Johnson hopping on the Star Wars train to write and direct Episode VIII. While it’s easy to think that Johnson is a filmmaking prodigy, handpicked from obscurity by JJ Abrams himself, we can’t let ourselves forget that, not that long ago, he was just a kid with a camera (like most of us). This is best seen with his first feature, Brick. Made on a shoestring budget, Johnson directed breakout stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his neo-noir film set at his old high school. Even if the genre isn’t your jam, it’s still worth a watch simply for its aesthetic beauty; every frame is a glorious, indie painting.

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)

Cameron PostI’m calling it early; this film is the John Hughes, coming of age story that’s going to speak for all of those geeky film kids growing up in the 2010s. Adapted for screen by Desiree Akhavan (a gifted actor in her own right), The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of a young girl being sent to a gay conversion camp at the suggestion of her aunt. While we may have been placated by the bland, albeit charming, adventures of a few teens just trying to make it through Saturday detention, we need to address the problems of sexuality and racial identity in this day and age. And while you might have to wait a hot minute for wide distribution, do yourself a favor and catch this one; I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.


7. This is John (Jay and Mark Duplass)

Duplass
The Duplass brothers


The only suitable way to end this list is with a Duplass Brothers film. Built on the brand of distinct characters placed in perilous situations, Mark and Jay Duplass have been a household name of indie startup filmmaking since their first foray into the medium with This is John. The entire film is literally a man trying to record a new outgoing voicemail message (sorry, spoilers). The equipment is shoddy, the premise is narrow; everything in us as filmmakers tells us that it shouldn’t work. And yet, miraculously, it does. This is one film I believe to be almost perfect. It fills me with a creative spirit I only get when watching films I love, and it reminds me that I don’t need millions of dollars to make something that touches people. It reminds me that if I’m not out every weekend, shooting, writing, editing, that time is time wasted. Because every filmmaker on this list came from humble beginnings. Every single one was just a kid in the movie theater at one point in time, seeing their lives played out on screen in front of them, thinking, “Hey, someone gets me.” Films aren’t made by beautiful cinematography, or genius scripts, or breathtaking performances. They’re made by the little imperfections we, as humans, all share. This film, as all films should, remind me that I’m not perfect, but that’s okay. Because no one else is either.