90s Movies v. 80s Movies #QuarantineLife #movie

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Quarantine life has me watch a ton of movies. Many are repeats, but even more are new to me. Of the latter set, quite a few are movies I never saw when they first came out, going all the way back to childhood (e.g., Taxi Driver). This past weekend, I watched Grosse Point Blank (1997) for the first time, which gave me a thought. I’ve noticed that 90s movies seem to hold up far better than 80s movies, and I’m not sure why. Is it because the filmmakers of the 90s were better at their craft, or is it because I’m more emotionally attached to the 90s? The latter makes more sense, but it could actually be both. Note: For the purposes of this post, my definition of “hold up” is I like the 80s or 90s movie even though I’ve seen it for the first time within the past 10 years. An equally interesting definition is Later generations like the movie. I’m curious as to whether any of you have had the same experiences in that regard as I did.

Is It Me?

I always try to place my bias in check, and I certainly have a bias when it comes to the 90s. Movies from a shared era follow similar themes, so a movie from a given era can often represent that era well. I don’t want to bring down the conversation, but to address this I have to point out a few things. My childhood wasn’t exactly happy, nor were my high school of college years. They were actually quite miserable, and I haven’t maintained the few, weak friendships I had from those eras. If it weren’t for Facebook, I would never have heard from them again, and that’s the extent of our relationships to this day. In fact, I have better online relationships with people I’ve never met. On the other hand, I finally had the “college experience” when I attended law school in my late 20s to early 30s. That was 1996-2000, and it was literally the best time of my life. I have close friendships with the people I met there, and whenever I drop into Chicago, my schedule is packed. This could certainly affect how I view movies from that era.

The Case Against the 80s

The best way to assess which decade holds up better is by watching movies for the first time at a much later date. I missed a ton, but I’m sure all of you missed at least a few. A good example of a cult classic that I didn’t see until after 2010 is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I don’t want to rain on your respective parades, but that was some stupid shit. To start, because of a scene appearing in the script that never made it to the screen, we know how Ferris financed this remarkably expensive day: He stole his parents’ bonds and cashed them in. I already hate this punk, though it wasn’t on screen, so perhaps we should ignore that one. That’s fine, because the dumbest part about the movie it its lesson. If you give it some thought, the moral of the story is “If your father claims you’re too irresponsible to drive his expensive sports car without destroying it, teach him a lesson by stealing the car, irresponsibly destroying it, and taking out a large percentage of his house along with it. That’ll show him!

Only a kid in high school could get behind that.

Seriously, that’s stupid, but I fully expect you to like it if A) you’re in high school, or B) you first saw the movie when you were in high school. This is one of many examples of 80s movies I didn’t see until my 40s or later.

Other examples: The Dark Crystal (1982), Willow (1988)

Notable exception: The Princess Bride (1987). That holds up as well as any movie in history.

The Case for the 90s

The Big Lebowski. QED.

Alright, alright; here’s a little more. I first saw that movie about 5 years ago (2015 or so). It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and for a comedy to be funny to a later generation (which I effectively represent) says a lot about how well it was made. Usually, the joke gets lost on future generations. Dramas aren’t immune to this effect either. Grosse Point Blank did not evoke any emotional effect (other than some of the music), but I still enjoyed it more than I do most 80s movies.

Notable exception: American Pie (1999). Even though I still find the film funny, the surveillance scene doesn’t hold up well at all, though I understood that when I first saw it. I was in law school at the time and thought, “Everyone involved should go to jail.”

Facts are facts, but there’s no escaping the emotional bonds you have to media. Sometimes facts and emotional bonds are in sync. I suspect they are here. The 90s win.

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Casey Biggs and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine @netflix @arenastage #QuarantineLife #StarTrek #DS9

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My favorite movie and television property is Star Trek. I wasn’t fond of Star Trek Into Darkness but otherwise am an apologist for the property. However, Star Trek Deep Space Nine wrapped up while I was in law school, so it’s the only series for which I haven’t seen all the episodes. I’m currently remedying that situation by watching seasons 6 and 7.

There’s nothing I can say about the series that hasn’t been said before. Instead, I’ll mention a personal anecdote. I’ve been attending the theater since I was 5 years old, so over 4 decades. However, it wasn’t just any theater; it was Arena Stage. Arena is high-quality theater. I can’t tell you how many now-famous actors I’ve seen cut their teeth at Arena, as well as stop by for a visit after getting their big break.

So, when I saw that Casey Biggs had joined the cast of Deep Space Nine as Damar, I was thrilled. Mr. Biggs has a history with Arena. He was the first actor I had ever seen on TV (L.A. Law) that I first saw at Arena. My favorite two roles for him were that of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew. He appears to be assigned to soap opera hell but consistently gets one-shot roles on prominent TV shows.

He remains an obscure actor, but I’ve paid attention and appreciate what he’s done through these years.

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Guilty Pleasure: Legion (the 2010 Movie) @Paul_Bettany @AdriannePalicki @Willaaaah @TheLucasBlack @Tyrese @KateWalsh @actordougjones #movie #GuiltyPleasure #QuarantineLife

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Legion has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 19 from the critics (who mean nothing to me) and 31 from the audience, which is even worse than Green Lantern. Go figure. Like Green Lantern, the cast was actually pretty good, mixing newcomers with established veterans, and a couple of up-and-coming stars. I’m sure a few of them wouldn’t appreciate me linking them here, but they did a good job with what they had.

I think there are two things that make me like this movie. First, as a mythology fan, I love it when mythology, religion, and legends are turned on their heads. It gives the stories a different take and thus isn’t a bland remake of the same story we’ve seen a million times. In this case, while not evil per se,  Gabriel is still the villain. Michael, on the other hand, is the protagonist even though he’s going against the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of god. That’s the big difference; there are others. Maybe some of the bad ratings are based on the fact that this offended people. Perhaps just a little bit?

Second, at the time I saw it, I was still playing Dungeons & Dragons and thought it could be the basis of a really interesting campaign. Unfortunately, I never got around to it. Food for thought for the gamer nerds.

It’s a guilty pleasure. So sue me.

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Good Watch: The Finest Hours on Disney+ @EricBana67 @disneyplus #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Whether you’re an MCU nut like me, or a Pixar nut, there’s actually a lot more on Disney+ than what you subscribed for. Back in March, I watched the Finest Hours.

It starred Chris Pine as Bernard “Bernie” Webber, a real person who led a 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton during a nor’easter. The opening act focuses on how Bernie met and fell in love with his future wife, Miriam. After that, the action picks up as the rescue gets underway, but the movie still revisits Miriam as she frets over what she sees as a suicide mission for Bernie. Whether you’re looking for action or characters, there’s at least a little bit in there for you.

The movie also stars Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, and Ben Foster, all of whom did a good job.

For what it’s worth, the Finest Hours’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes are 64 from the critics and 66% from the audience.

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Guilty Pleasure: Green Lantern @VancityReynolds @TaikaWaititi #movie #GuiltyPleasure #QuarantineLife

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First off:

Yeah, I know. With Rotten Tomatoes scores of 26 from the critics (who mean nothing to me) and 45 from the audience, Green Lantern isn’t exactly well-loved, but if it were, it wouldn’t be a guilty pleasure. You chose to read this post. You’re committed to hearing me praise a movie you can’t stand.

Let’s start with the easy part: Ryan Reynolds is always great. You all love his sarcasm in Deadpool, and he delivers it here in spades. It’s a typical Ryan Reynolds performance, and if you can’t get behind that, you’re truly lost. As for the rest of the cast, I know of at least three Oscar winners (Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, and Taika Watiti) and one nominee (Angela Bassett) in there. They didn’t win Oscars for this movie, but it’s a good cast.

Moving on, one of the dead horses I love to beat is that I’ve never really read comics, but there’s a method to that madness. I have an exceptional, long-term memory, and I read a few comics in childhood, so I have some idea of comics lore. However, I have no loyalty to their story lines. If Parallax is nothing like what he was in the comics, I wouldn’t know and don’t care. This isn’t a defense of Parallax — I thought he was rather goofy — but rather a means to help you understand why I hold the positions I do on this and other Guilty Pleasure posts. Ergo, many of the reasons you may have for hating this movie have no relevance to me.

Next, Sinestro. Whether we’re talking about the actor (Marc Strong) or the character, this movie was the set up for a sequel that would rival the Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan or Aliens. Whereas the first movie is always about the protagonists, the second movie is always about the villains. I know of no comic villains with a more tragic fall than Sinestro. He was made quite sympathetic and demonstrated a dedicated campaign against the fear to which he eventually succumbed. This made his fall from grace all the greater. Again, I don’t know many comic book back stories, but a second movie with Mark Strong playing Sinestro as the villain could have been incredible.

Then there’s Taika Waititi. He really sucked in this 🙂 , but considering who he’s become, this is a great look back at his beginnings. Sure, that’s not a reason to like the movie, but I consider it bonus points. He’s turned into something special and won an Oscar for his efforts elsewhere.

Finally, the music. Music is my favorite art form, and when I really like the music, it can often carry the movie. The music is overall rather weak in this movie, but there are a couple of pieces that are on one of my playlists. Here’s a short example that I thought captured the scene well:

The music starts at 0:54, but you may need the entire clip to appreciate my point.

All of this is enough for me to watch this movie occasionally despite some poor dialogue and overacting. I’m doing so as I write this.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!

If you’re interested, it’s streaming on HBO Now.  

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Good Watch: Brain Games on Disney+ @JasonSilva @KeeganMKey @ActuallyNPH @disneyplus #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Whether you’re an MCU nut like me, or a Pixar nut, there’s actually a lot more on Disney+ than what you subscribed for. For me, one of them is Brain Games care of National Geographic.

Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris in season one, Jason Silva in seasons 2 through 7, and Keegan-Michael Key since, this show dives into how our brains work. Many of you are certainly aware of a lot of the oddities of how the brain works, but even in episodes where I knew the tricks, I was still sometimes fooled, and in any event there was still a lot to learn. Brain Games goes into detail as to how and why the brain does what it does. Each episode so far has been just over 20 minutes, and none of them depend on the other, so it’s easy to fit into your schedule.

If you’re into science, or just like getting fooled, give Brain Games a shot.

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