Monday, May 23, 2016

1986: The Movies

Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!

Last week I wrote about the toy lines of 1986 that had my attention. This week I’m going to talk about the movies. I have to point out that these are the movies that I actually saw in 1986. It was a HUGE year for great films, but there are many I didn’t see until the following year or later. Since this post is specifically about my nostalgia for 1986, I’m not mentioning greats like Aliens, Platoon, The Golden Child, Blue Velvet, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, or my personal favorite movie of all time, Big Trouble in Little China.

Crocodile Dundee

It cannot be overstated how big of an impact Paul Hogan had on American culture in 1986. His movie about an Australian fish out of water in New York City was ridiculously, absurdly huge. It was the second-highest grossing movie of the year, missing the number one spot by less than two million dollars.

Because of how cool Crocodile Dundee was, I wanted to go to Australia. I wanted to talk with an Australian accent – and did. A bad one, but I did it. And I definitely wanted a knife big enough to be able to say, “That’s not a knoife… now that’s a knoife”.

Also, the sight of Linda Kozlowski filling her canteen in the river might have actually activated puberty for me.

Mr. Miyagi – because Karate Kid Part II might be awesome, but it had shitty posters.

The Karate Kid, Part II

You guys – this movie was critical.

We had all lived our karate dreams vicariously through Daniel LaRusso  two years prior, but this time he was going to Mister Miyagi’s hometown, the fabled Okinawa, Japan. We were going to see actual, for-real Japanese Karate in this one. And it did not disappoint. Taking the sequel formula, everything got ramped up. From Miyagi’s friend-turned-nemesis Sato to Daniel’s new foe, Sato’s nephew Chozen, the STAKES WERE HIGH.

Also, there was the greatest ballad of all time:


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

My mom took me to see a lot of movies, and I will always be grateful for that and cherish those memories of our movie days. This one was a no-brainer. We had seen Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock so there was no doubt we were going to see the fourth installment in what remains my favorite iteration of Star Trek.

I remember wincing and being uncomfortable at the “colorful metaphors” but loving seeing the Enterprise crew interacting with modern Americans. I also loved the scene with Scotty trying to talk to the computer. My new computer has speech recognition, but I don’t think that either of us is ready for that step yet.

Tom Cruise as Maverick because Top Gun also had shitty posters.

Top Gun

Remember when I said Crocodile Dundee was the second-highest grossing film? This was the top. And if you think that hearing a little San Francisco street profanity with my mom sitting next to me was awkward, you should meet my dad, who was sitting next to me during the scene in Top Gun where Tom Cruise porks Kelly McGillis.

Me and Dad didn’t go see a lot of movies together. As a matter of fact, off the top of my head the only ones were Top Gun and Return of the Jedi. It was a big deal that we were going to see Top Gun, which was already pretty much the biggest movie in the history of everything. I remember thinking it was kind of boring, what with the complete lack of monsters, superheroes, or robots. But I was happy to be spending some time with Dad. He would lean over to me every once in a while and tell me what one of the planes was or what a pilot was doing. I think he always wanted to be in the Air Force instead of the Army, but couldn’t because of his poor vision.

It totally isn’t my kind of movie, but I’ll always love Top Gun and watch it whenever it’s on.

Howard the Duck

Yes, I saw Howard the Duck in the theater. With my mom. You’d think a duck banging a human woman would be the most awkward of all the experiences listed here, but I’m not sure I totally got what was going on there. I was ten, so I didn’t hate this movie. I don’t think I understood that it was bad. It was just this cool-looking, wise-talking duck on a road trip. I didn’t know anything about Steve Gerber’s comics or the origins of the character at the time. I just thought a movie about a giant duck that was kind of an asshole was great.

Short Circuit

This came out the day before my birthday, so it was the obvious choice for the movie to go see as part of my party celebration thing. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have any particular attachment to the movie, but thirty years ago Johnny 5 was a huge deal. We all adored the wacky robot and his culturally diverse friends. I’d say that my biggest takeaway now is Weird Al’s parody of El Debarge’s theme song for the movie, “Who’s Johnny”:

(Here’s Johnny)

The Transformers: The Movie

It’s weird typing it like that, but the initial “The” is correct. It’s just that I’ve spent thirty years talking about it and conversationally it’s, “Transformers: The Movie” or even just “Transformers” because it’s not like there are any other Transformers movies, right?

(I don’t actually hate any of Bay’s Transformers except for the second one, but that joke is just too easy)

I’ve written and talked about this one a bunch, including reviewing it here, so there’s not much to say. There’s no overstating how big this was. I don’t have an objective memory of the advertising or media coverage leading up to it, but in my head the hype was phenomenal. Not only was one of the greatest toy and afternoon cartoon franchises of the day going to be in movie theaters, it featured actual for-real celebrity actors doing voices – Judd Nelson, Orson Welles, and Leonard Nimoy! The whole reason that I am a fan of Judd Nelson to this day is that he voiced Hot Rod and SPOILER Rodimus Prime.

The only thing I haven’t previously discussed about Transformers: The Movie is freaking the fuck out when “Dare to Be Stupid” started playing. I had no idea that my personal hero Weird Al Yankovic had a song in the movie. When those first synthesized notes started playing over the Junk Planet scene I lost my shit. I can’t even explain how unbelievable that was to ten-year-old me. Weird Al was a very personal thing to me, so the idea that the people making Transformers movies not only knew about Al but also liked him enough to use a song in their movie was amazing.

I don’t know that I’ve owned every version of this that has come out, but I’ve owned a few. I had the original FHE VHS and have owned a couple of DVD releases. At one point I had a bootleg VHS in a clear case that had the original theatrical cut. The FHE version had edited the scene where Spike says “shit”. I think some footage had actually been cut, as well.
Those are the biggest movies I got to see in 1986. Every one of them feels like a significant milestone to me and in examining the list I see a lot of things that I don’t believe Hollywood would try today. I mean, yes – they have made sequels to or remakes of or different versions of everything on here, but at the time all of the ideas in these films were original, even if they were inhabiting sequels.

All in all it was a better, more entertaining time.

Or I’m just getting old.

I think I’ve got one more of these in me, so check back next Monday to see if I write something about the television shows of 1986! In the meantime, join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group and get in on the conversation! Let me know what you think!

Also, buy some of these awesome movies from Amazon and help Needless Things pay the bills! (Transformers and Short Circuit are both out of print and stupid expensive, so I didn't include them):

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