Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pretty in Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986)

As they're leaving Trax to go on their first date, Blane asks Andie, "So, do you wanna go home and change"? Obviously implying that what she is currently wearing is not appropriate first date attire. Can you believe this guy? There's a lot to like about John Hughes' Pretty in Pink, but there's a lot that will make your spiro-saturated blood boil. And the scenario I just mentioned is one of the most infuriating. If I was Andie, the date would have ended the second that glob of verbal repulsiveness passed through the mouth-hole attached to Blane's smug face. Now, you could say: Hey, give the guy a break. I mean, he's not used to dating girls who shop at thrift stores. But I'm not going to be doing that today. No fucking way. Besides, his decision to then take Andie to a party being thrown at James Spader's house was just as misguided. And, no, this isn't the kooky, lovable version of James Spader from 2002 we're talking about. This James Spader circa 1986. In other words, we're talking about someone who is a major douchebag. I don't know 'bout you, but "major douchebag" actually undersells the level of douchiness James Spader is putting out there in this movie. At any rate, what was Blane thinking? I realize that the whole dating sequence is set up to highlight the colossal divide that exists between Blane and Andie's different social structures. But never have seen someone act so clueless before. Seriously, you would think, judging by his actions, that he was trying to sabotage his relationship with the redheaded enchantress right from the get-go.

Mind you, I'm not one of those Pretty in Pink fans who, after they're done trashing Blane, goes ahead and starts listing the reasons why Andie should be dating her best bud Duckie instead. I don't think so. Despite possessing "strong lips" and a unique sense of style, Duckie is a clingy crybaby and a bit of a stalker. Actually, all the men in this film have a stalker-ish vibe about them.

Watching Blane stalk Andie in the halls and then show up at Trax, the record store where Andie works after school, like that was kind of unnerving. Think about it. Who wants some guy with no personality or fashion sense following you around for most of the day? I know I sure don't.

Wait, did I just say that Duckie, played by Jon Cryer (Dudes), had a "unique sense of style"? While it's true, Duckie is a style icon. You'll notice that when Blane (Andrew McCarthy) goes to talk Andie (Molly Ringwald) in the place where all the cool/misunderstood students hangout, the joint is crawling with Duckie clones.

We're talking garish blazers, brightly-coloured blazers, tweed blazers, check blazers, blazers covered with anachronistic military insignia. It's like an irregular blazer free-for-all back there. Not to mention, vests! Bolo ties! Studded bracelets! Jelly bracelets! Pointy monk strap shoes!

And my God. The fedoras! Never have I seen so many young people in fedoras. Of course, that statement makes sense when said between 1986 and, oh, let's say, the year 2000. But have you walked down the street of any major North American city over the past fifteen years? There are fedoras everywhere. You could say that everyone has morphed into Duckie. Yeah, yeah, not everyone looks like Duckie. But you can definitely feel his presence. It's kinda eerie when you think about it.

Who would have thought a character from a John Hughes movie would go on to become the template for the hipster movement?

Don't be fooled, though, the toxic brand of masculinity that the likes of Blane and Steff stink of still permeates the atmosphere. Anytime you see a man assume that a woman owes him something, whether it be her attention or even sex, you can thank the likes Blane and Steff... And, in a way, Duckie is no better than them. He has this idea in his head that if he keeps harassing Andie, she'll eventually fall in love with him.

At the end of the day, Andie shouldn't date any of them. Okay, she should definitely fuck James Spader... a bunch of times. But as for long term relationships? Yeah, I don't think so.

My advice to Andie is: Listen to music... on vinyl (it's 1985/86!!! Depeche Mode, Skinny Puppy, Cocteau Twins and countless others are putting out albums, like, all the time), continue to play around with fashion, try dating a woman. It's 1986! You're living in one of the most exciting times to be alive. Don't waste it by dating a bunch of needy twerps.

Hell, date a trans person. I'm not sure, but I think I spotted one during the fedora scene. They're wearing a brimmed hat and carrying a camouflage backpack. Trans or not, there's definitely some gender fluidity brewing at this particular high school.

Anyway, yeah. I'd tell Andie to date Iona (Annie Potts), the owner of Trax, but she seems to fall under the soul crushing spell that is mid-1980s heterosexuality. Sure, heterosexuality is fun now (you know, with all those newfangled kinks and fetishes and whatnot), but mid-1980s heterosexuality was a different story all-together. You can watch Iona slowly succumb to it by watching how her wardrobe changes over the course of the film.

In her first scene, she's rocking a bondage-inspired punk look. And to top it off, she uses a stapler against a shoplifter. Bad-ass.

Her second outfit is a new wave look with new romantic flourishes. All that was missing was a Visage song blasting chic-ly on the soundtrack (the film's real soundtrack features three(!) New Order tracks).

The third and I guess fourth outfits combine cultural appropriation and nostalgia, as Iona embraces that brief trend where everyone pretended they were Chinese or Japanese (or, in some cases, both at once) and sports a 1960s-style beehive hairdo/pink prom dress.

Of course, if you were Chinese or Japanese in the 1980s, you pretended you were Madonna. Who, by the way, is mentioned in this film. This might sound odd, but it was kinda freaky hearing people talk about Madonna in the 1980s.

At the end, Iona sells out and becomes a yuppie. Which, in a way, sums up the last ten years (1976-86) pretty accurately.

You start off with punk (safety pin earrings)  and new wave (pink lip gloss on weekdays), dabble with cultural appropriation (remember when you wore a Japanese rising sun bandana to that Kajagoogoo concert?)  and nostalgia (admit it, you used to watch Sha Na Na reruns... unironically). And then you sell out and move to Connecticut. The end.

Random PIP observations:

Duckie, from the looks of it, lives in an abandoned crack house.

Gina Gershon can be spotted twice, once during the gym scene and again at the prom.

Did you know that Trax, the record store where Andie works, is based on Wax Trax! Records, the iconic record store/record label in Chicago? Yeah, I didn't know this. Apparently it's where John Hughes used to shop when he lived in Chicago.

The DJs at the prom are ridiculous. I mean, really? Does it take that much gear to spin OMD records?

A copy of The Residents' Diskomo/Goosebump can be seen for sale at Trax for 7.99.

Hey, Duckie. Yeah, Ed Norton from The Honeymooners called, he wants his entire wardrobe back.

And finally, Andie can't even surf the 1985-86 version of the internet without being harassed. Typical.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dune (David Lynch, 1984)

Call me crazy, but I think there might be a connection between the spice and the worms. What that connection is, I'm not entirely sure. But what I do know is... Oh, wait. Virginia Madsen has started talking again. Just a second... Okay, I think she's done. All right, where was I? Ah, yes, the spice and the worms of Arrakis, a sort of spice planet. Since the discovery of the spice back in the year who gives a shit, humanity has longed to control the spice. In fact, according to Baron... What the fuck! (What happened?) You won't believe this, but Virginia Madsen has started talking again. It's my fault. I mean, I had three options at my disposal when it came to watching Dune for the very first time the other night. The first option was the theatrical cut. I said, no way, I ain't watching that. The second option was the extended cut. This option seemed tempting, but director David Lynch famously had his name removed from this version of the film, so, I passed on it. The third option was something called "The Work-print Cut." Cobbled together by a fan(s) of the film, the work-print cut combines both the theatrical cut and the extended cut and uses the notes of David Lynch as a sort of guidepost... I think. Now, I'm not sure if Virginia Madsen's opening slab of exposition is longer in this version. Nevertheless, I just sat through three hours of Dune, and my mind is... throbbing like one of those pulsating pus-laden cysts that litter the right side Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's greasy face. I'm no dermatologist, but I think  Baron Vladimir Harkonnen should start washing with soap that contains tea tree oil. I've read that it helps remove sebum from the skin, thus preventing the chances of your pores from becoming clogged.

Yes, I realize that  Baron Vladimir Harkonnen already has a doctor, played by Leonardo Cimino, who is currently treating his severe case of space acne. But he isn't doing a very good job, now is he?

While I could talk about the Baron's clogged pores for hours on end, Dune isn't really about space acne. It's about spice, baby.

However, it's the acne plagued Baron Harkonnen who says so succinctly at one point: "He who controls the spice, controls the universe."

While the Baron (Kenneth McMillan), the ruler of Giedi Prime and the leader of House Harkonnen, wants to control the spice. He is, actually, under the control of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (José Ferrer), the leader of the Known Universe, who resides on the Planet Kaitain. When Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow), the leader of House Atreides on the Planet Caladan, takes over the Planet Arrakis, a.k.a. Spice World, this enrages the Baron, who, along with his demented sons/gay lovers, Feyd (Sting) and The Beast Rabban (Paul L. Smith), plots to bring down House Atreides, and takeover spice production on the Planet Arrakis.

In-between all this scheming, lot's of weird ass nonsense takes place.

Now, with so many planets and so many characters to keep track of, it's easy to see how someone might get lost.

In order to prevent this from happening, we end up spending the bulk of our time following Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), the duke's son.

I know, what kind of name for a kid is "Paul"? But then again, his mom's name is Jessica (Francesca Annis). What I mean is, in a film populated by characters with names like, Shadout Mapes (Linda Hunt), a shadowy Fremen housekeeper who is always carrying a crysknife, Thufir Hawat (Freddie Jones), House Atreides' bushy-browed head of security, and Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart), Warmaster for House Atreides, Paul and Jessica seem out of place.

While the story of Paul's rise from being a wide-eyed duke in training to a spice worm-riding God is super compelling, I couldn't help but be obsessed by the oft-kilter goings-on transpiring on Giedi Prime, the home of House Harkonnen.

Don't get me wrong, Planet Caladan is loaded with talented actors. The aforementioned Jürgen Prochnow, Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart and Freddie Jones, for example, are all great. As are, Richard Jordan and Dean Stockwell, who plays Doctor Yueh. But Giedi Prime has Kenneth McMillan as the awful Baron Harkonnen, a balloon-shaped tyrant covered in cysts, Jack Nance as Nefud, a Harkonnen lackey...

...Paul L. Smith (Pieces) as The Beast Rabban, a disgustingly vile man who sweats pure evil, Sting as Feyd, a lanky ginger who digs knives and loves doing crunches (the entire planet, by the way, is populated by redheads), and, my personal favourite, Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries (his "juice of Sappho" monologue was glorious), the Baron's right hand man, who, strangely enough, doesn't have red hair.

Okay, now that you got the image of all those repugnant motherfuckers in your head. Imagine them all in the same green-walled room. I don't know 'bout you, but watching a bunch of repugnant motherfuckers acting all gross 'n' junk was kind of awesome. Did I feel sad whenever the Baron's undulating cysts weren't onscreen? In a way, yes. Yes, I did. There's something about these rupugnant motherfuckers that was quite appealing.

And that appeal seemed to go through the roof when the Baron drains/fucks/absorbs... um... Whatever the Baron did to that boy-toy, who was, for some reason, planting fake purple flowers at gun point, was tremendously discombobulating.

Actually, now that I think about it, if you were to ask me to describe Dune using only two words, I would say it was: tremendously discombobulating. Yeah, I like that.

Kooky wordplay aside. Even though three hours might seem a tad excessive, I couldn't help but be sucked into this unnecessarily complicated world of spice and giant worms. And, in a bizarre twist, I ended up rooting for Paul to defeat my beloved Baron. It's bizarre because I usually loathe these bland Luke Skywalker types. But there was something different going on here. Or maybe it's because Kyle MacLachlan (Showgirls) is awesome. There you go.

I've always wanted to review a David Lynch movie on here. Why I haven't done one is a bit of a mystery. One day, I asked a friend: If I was going to review a David Lynch film, which one should I do? And, without hesitation, they said, Dune. After thinking about it for, oh, I don't know, five whole seconds, I said: You're absolutely right. Dune it is.

Quirky fun-fact: My only connection to Dune up until this point was through the early 1990s techno rave scene. You see, a U.K. techno project called "EON" released two tracks back in '91. And both, "Spice" and "Fear Is the Mind-Killer," sample the movie rather heavily. The spice must flow.