Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

 

That is the teaser that appeared at the end of the VHS copy of Raiders, promoting the next Indiana Jones film. It also played in theaters, told you almost nothing about the movie, but whetted your appetite so much that you wanted to stay and watch it again, at least I did. For me, this was the most highly anticipated film of 1984 and it lived up to my expectations. Many have criticized it, some have suggested that it is not worthy, but I am willing to defend it to the end and strongly endorse everyone over the age of 13 seeing it. OK, most of those under 13 as well.

indiana_jones_and_the_temple_of_doom_ver1As I write this post, I look out the door of my office and I see hanging on the wall the posters from the Indiana Jones series. This one is a personal favorite. The heroic Dr. Jones, standing in the archway, back lit by flames, with his whip and a machete in his hands. This kicks ass! This movie is important for a number of reasons, and had time not intervened, it could have been possible for the Indiana Jones stories to have careened forward and backwards like the first three did. I have great memories of the movie as well and some of them are a little cool. Continue reading

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The Natural

In the early 1980s, there were virtually no films featuring America’s pastime. The previous most successful baseball themed movie had been “the Bad News Bears”, a comedy about Little League baseball and a drunken coach played by Walter Matthau. That film came out in 1976. In 1984, Barry Levinson delivered “the Natural” and in the next ten years, there were more than eighteen films featuring the game of baseball. Do you suppose that is a coincidence? I’ve read a few criticisms of “The Natural” as a movie in the last couple of months. With no disrespect to those who have a different opinion, I’d have to say that “The Natural” is one of the most influential baseball films of all time, and that it may be one of the most beautiful movies ever made.

natural_ver1_xlgMany defenders of “the Natural” have gone as far as to say that the movie is not really about baseball. There are scholarly attempts to explain it through the prism of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. There are allegories and direct references to mythology and the gods. I can’t say that any of those thoughts are wrong, I can say however, that the movie is about baseball more than anything else and regardless of the inspirations or literary roots, baseball is the source of it’s strengths.

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The Bounty

The first weekend of May is now the official start of the summer movie season. Back in 1996, Twister and Mission Impossible managed to move up the crowded summer release schedule by almost three weeks. In 1984, the summer blockbusters still waited until the end of the month. Dramas and comedies dominated the box office until the big budget spectacles arrived Memorial Day weekend. “The Bounty” is a prestige piece that originated in the minds of Sir David Lean and his longtime collaborator Robert Bolt. The team that gave us “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago” and “Ryan’s Daughter” had imagined a two part film to rival those impressive predecessors. Those plans were too great for the studio that was backing the project and their film fell through, although the star cast as William Bligh stayed attached to the picture and was eventually cast in this version.

the-bounty-1984Casting is one of the attractions of this film from thirty years ago. Two future Academy Award winners are prominently featured in the movie, as were two future box office titans. It was also one of the last feature films to star the legendary Lawrence Olivier, himself an Oscar winner and a figure from the glory days of old Hollywood and British Theater. With so much going for it, there is plenty of reason to ask why it was a disappointment. It was not remembered at the end of the year and it was a flop when it comes to getting a return on investment. It is however a very effective telling of the well known mutiny story. Continue reading

Sixteen Candles

Probably better if this post was written by a woman who was a girl in 1984, instead of an old guy who was already married for four years when this came out. Since it is my blog however, and since I am not a teenage girl, all you are going to get are my perspectives on this sweet teen nightmare/fantasy that started John Hughes off as the guru of teen angst and comedy of the eighties.

sixteen_candles_ver1First loves and crushed dreams are the subject of this film from the mastermind of John Hughes. Mr. Hughes had written two or three movies before this but this was his directorial debut. Between 1984 and 1986 he wrote five films that dealt with the trauma of being a teenager. He directed four of those himself and all of them have had a lasting impact on a generation of film watchers and film makers. After his sudden and much too early death in 2009, people came out of the woodwork to praise his films and to honor his legacy. Although the movies might be seen as fluff by some, they managed to touch a whole population of kids from this time period in some pretty important ways. This film was the start of that signature sensibility that a decade latched on to.

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