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March 03, 2011


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Matt Blankman

The only "back to the '80s" movie that actually nailed what the 80s looked and felt like was Greg Mottola's "Adventureland." I was a teenager in the 80s, and man, that was spot-on.

Matt Blankman

I mean, I was a teenager during the time depicted in "Adventureland." I couldn't possibly have been a teenager for the entire decade of the 1980s.

Dan Coyle

Sometimes i try to remember a time in my life when I wasn't aware of Dan Fogler's existence. It's so hard, Glenn.

It's so HARD.


Not only can I not unstick the terrible treacle of "TMHT" from my torn brainpan, but now vague memories of that black and white video keep flooding into my field of vision and I'm forced to consider whether those certain unfortunate people who are afflicted with faces that deserve to be facepunched look in the mirror and want to punch their own faces?

Despite not hating Grace and thinking of re-upping my membership in the Anna Faris fanclub, I still want to punch this movie's face in the crotch. I guess the title and what it evokes in you says all that needs to be said about whether or not one would deign seeing the flick in the first place, but did the makers ever once realize that the title alone would drive away a possibly not insignificant portion of the films ostensible demographic?


I actually do recall seeing a "Frankie Say Relax" shirt or two in my middle school years, ca. 1985-7. Of course, this was in Norfolk, Virginia, not exactly the most with-it area of the world, or the country, or Virginia (but possibly of southeastern Virginia).


Ditto to AeC's remark about Raleigh, NC, same era. Must have been a regional pocket of 'Frankiecophilia.' Some even had shirts that said "I don't give a fuck what Frankie says."

Great time and place to be growed up in...

Mr. Peel

Strange, Roger Ebert makes a big point out of saying Anna Faris wants to go to Oxford. But he does get these things wrong sometimes.

I have to admit, I had a Frankie Say Relax shirt that I wore but I was just a dumb kid from Westchester so I won't try to defend myself for doing so. I remember seeing some "Who gives a fuck what Frankie says" shirts too.

I admit, I'm curious how Angie Everhart looks these days but this film was made so long ago it can't even be said to represent how she looks "these days" anymore. Always remember: Be David Caruso in JADE.

Glenn Kenny

Ebert's wrong. I'll bet a month's worth of his grosses from his Amazon-merchandise-shilling tweets on it. The only reason I really noticed it was because it seemed so peculiar—Why Cambridge for short-story writing? That's where you go to discover DNA, and form Henry Cow. Not emulate Raymond Carver or whoever.


Maximilian: They must've put a lot of thought into the title, because it was originally called "Kids in America." I guess they eventually decided Eddie Money had more cross-generational appeal than Kim Wilde.


GK's right, RE's wrong. It's Cambridge.


Saw lots of FRANKIE SAY RELAX shirts back in the day. But what does San Francisco know?

Glenn Kenny

You guys all knew that line about "Frankie" t-shirts was a joke, right? You're all just messing with me, right? Right?


This movie really looks stab-a-total-stranger bad, which kinda bums me out because I saw BALLS OF FURY and laughed a whole lot. Dan Fogler was funnier in that movie than Jonah Hill has ever been in his entire misbegotten career.


Mary Elizabeth Williams has a similar review at Salon ("What's Wrong with '80s Nostalgia Movies").

The problem with '80s nostalgia is that it's aimed at people who were children or unborn in that decade. If you were out of college and in the work force (as I was from 1982 on), life was NOT one big MTV video. Or a John Hughes movie come to life. Those were fantasies. But it's what people want to "remember," even if their '80s memories are second-hand and come from pop culture.

It's like those '60s-set movies where everyone's a hippie and has psychedelic posters in their crash pads, and listens to Janis and Jimi. It's not realistic (only a tiny percent of the population belonged to the counterculture), but it is a popular fantasy.


George: But isn't that true of all nostalgia movies & TV? Surely we all know better than to think that the 50s were just like Happy Days.

Glenn Kenny

Yeah, I saw that Salon thing. Boy, that Mary Elizabeth WIlliams does it every time, doesn't she? She must have a huge amount of good liberal concern-troll self-righteousness to spread around, given that in this case she's expending it on a picture that's going to be entirely forgotten by Monday March 7. It might be fun to concoct a response simply for the opportunity to use the headline "Nostalgia For The Mudd Club," but it wouldn't be worth it, as no response would compel her to just shut the fuck up. I'm trying to be more results-oriented these days myself, so I'm passing.

Matt Blankman

That Mary Elizabeth Williams piece didn't make any sense - by her logic, there could never be a nostalgia piece for *any* era. Did you enjoy Cagney in Walsh's "The Strawberry Blonde?" Well the REAL 1890s had the Panic of 1893, Benjamin Harrison and the Spanish-American War!


I'd just like to note, for the record, that Cambridge has had its share of acclaimed writers come through its halls, among them Salman Rushdie, A.S. Byatt, Nick Hornby, Zadie Smith, and many, many others. Not to mention like, what, all of the Romantic Poets? Still, Glenn's point stands, and I doubt much though went into the character's choice of college. (Mind you, I haven't seen the film.)

Also, I have several friends who went to MIT and studied English. Apparently they have a great English department. Go figure.


Also, while I really like Salon's coverage in general, it seems to me that every Mary Elizabeth Williams think piece can be summed up thusly: "X is not what you think it is. X is what *I* think it is."

Glenn Kenny

Well, you know me Bilge...picky, picky, picky. The funny thing is, Williams isn't "wrong," and in fact makes some of the same points I did—she complains about the Frankie t-shirts too. Where I take issue with her in the first place is in whether it "matters." It doesn't. There's also the matter of her posing as a cultural critic when ALL SHE DOES is filter material through the prism of her liberal-concern-troll experience/sensibility; her observations are not about how the '80s really were, they're about how HER '80s really were. I understand that in a sense that's all an individual writer can do with any real authority, but Williams does it with such joyless, oppressive, inverted solipsism. "You might think that sounds nitpicky," Williams writes, "but when they make the movie about 2011 and the characters are talking about Friendster and dancing around to 'Milkshake,' you'll care, Millennials. Oh, how you'll care." Yes, they will care. But only if they, like WIlliams, are malignant narcissists posing as progressives.


Also, I've been told by some in the know that The Old West wasn't really like THE SEARCHERS at all. (Mind. Blown.)

All joking aside, the real problem with MEW's piece is that she limits herself to '80s nostalgia movies, castigates them for being unrealistic, then yearns for an '80s set movie that doesn't just turn the entire decade into kitsch -- even though that is pretty much by definition what a nostalgia movie kind of is. If she looks beyond her chosen parameters, she'll probably find plenty of films that fit her description. Here are two: LET ME IN and DONNIE DARKO.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Shorter GK: "This reviewer pretty much says what I do. I hate that bitch."


I haven't paid much attention to Salon's movie coverage since Stephanie Z. left. Pure speculation here, but maybe Williams was bored by this utterly trivial movie, and decided instead to write an essay on nostalgia. I made reference to '60s period pieces to show that reality does not rule in movies set in any era, especially those aimed at a wide audience.

I kinda doubt "Gone With the Wind" was a realistic depiction of the Old South, either ... especially if you were black or poor.

But I sort of understand why Williams is coming from. I've worked with Gen X'ers who can spend all day talking about '80s pop culture. That seems to be the only decade that interests them. It can get as annoying as the old hippies who are still talking about Woodstock.

Glenn Kenny

I hear you George. Only I don't think Williams is saying she's sick of Gen X people yammering on about the '80s. It seems to me that she'd be absolutely fine with an '80s film, so long as it was a film that depicted the '80s as the epic and roiling era of Mary Elizabeth Williams' awesome anxieties and heroic struggles. The visceral sense of danger one felt with every new sex partner! The discomfort of wearing a shoulder-padded suit to a crappy job! She's one who "survived the decade," don't you see? She had to hear "Never Gonna Give You Up" over, and over, and over again!

I remember that jam. Even back then, I had enough of a sense of low-level irony to have been amused by its popularity. It's a must-hate thing these days, but somebody had to have enjoyed it, right? In any event, I WAS actually really angry about "Don't Worry Be Happy," also cited disapprovingly by Williams (hey, isn't she being ROCKIST?) and even had an anti-McFerrin rant published in the Voice, which rant was so ranty that it prompted Musician magazine's Bill Flanagan to comment, "Somebody put a net over that critic." (I'd link, but at it happens, NOT everything is on the internet.) To think; had circumstances been different, I might have met struggling writer Ms. Williams back then; she would have conceivably been impressed by my feisty, indignant, extremely correct social commentary (if I recall correctly, my piece had a lot of "How can McFerrin even CONSIDER such a suggestion when there are people SLEEPING ON FOULED MATTRESSES ON THE STREETS THEMSELVES" weepiness, and it actually ended, "The only possible response to 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' is this: Fuck you.")...and this might be a very different blog today. But alas, you're stuck with the one you've got.

That Fuzzy Bastard

It has been pointed out to me that my comment is maybe implying some kinda specifically gendered hostility to MEW on our host's part, and he's understandably annoyed at me about that. So let me publicly apologize for the suggestion, and my ill-chosen epithet, and say such was definitely not my intent. I was joking about GK's ability to generate such invective ('malignant narcissists posing as progressives", "no response would compel her to just shut the fuck up") in response to a piece that's agreeing with him. I'm not even condemning such behavior, just noting it with amusement---"the critic who beefs with critics" is a workable schtick, and an entertaining one, and gratuitous hostility in the service of entertaining wordsmithery is pretty much the purpose of the blogosphere. But I certainly didn't intend to say that our host is displaying any kind of hostility to women, only to film critics.


Say what? Trachtenberg was all throughout the movie, as the sexy chick with the cigarettes and black hair (ie wig) who kept hitting on Dan Fogler.

Which is a sight I REALLY did not need to see. On par with Josh Gad (aka the Poor Man's Dan Fogler) banging that porn-level chick at the end of Love and Other Drugs.

Other than, it was T-riffic. Though Kickstart My Heart was late 1989-early 1990, and VHS copies of TWINS wouldn't have been on shelves already within the 1988 calendar year.

It also, like the GREAT Adventureland and the fun HTTM, had that '80s notalgia movie thing where they play cuts from THE ENTIRE DECADE, as if everyone was still cranking THE SAFETY DANCE or COME ON EILEEN alongside Straight Outta Compton and The Crue in 1988-1989.

Glenn Kenny

THAT was Trachtenberg? Wow. Totally did NOT put two and two together. She looks very different in "Take Me Home" from the Michelle I know and love. And it's funny, too, because I actually GAVE HER A LIGHT outside the theater at the Toronto FIlm Fest premiere of "Mysterious Skin." Made a remark about how smoking was going to stunt her growth, too, which she very kindly laughed at.

Good call on the "Kickstart My Heart" temporal error. When "Dr. Feelgood" came out I thought it was in mildly bad taste that the Crue made a record condemning the drug dealers who mere months before had been their bestest friends so soon after "cleaning up," but I was kind of on the self-righteous side myself back then. My best Crue memory was listening to an advance copy of "Girls, Girls, Girls" in the office of the proprietor of Chicago's Cabaret Metro and marveling at the fact that the combo (who no one had actually been rooting for in this respect) had actually managed to make a record that didn't suck.

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