Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Anytime movies

A spectacularly successful time for genre cinema, the 1980s began with the likes of Altered States, Flash Gordon, and Scanners. The decade gave us three classic genre movies in 1982: Blade Runner, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Videodrome - all of which, for me, rank highly in a list of the very best pictures of all time. But there were many other favourites made in the 1980s: offbeat movies that are always watchable, and are well worth repeat viewings. They provide seemingly endless fun and I simply never get bored of seeing them again and again. They are ‘anytime movies’. They are problem solving choices when I cannot decide what else to watch.

They are resistant to easy pigeonholing or any strict categorisation. They are usually combinations of adventure, comedy, romance, and music, with plenty of action. They cannot easily be defined as one particular genre because they mix together sci-fi and fantasy or horror elements, blending themes and tropes without becoming bland. As they are made with plenty of good humour, all of these movies have memorable and quotable dialogue, which is part of what ensures their cult status.      

Each of these anytime movies is uniquely entertaining, and manages the clever trick of creating its own little universe for the screen. A great many other genre works also create unique worlds that are instantly engrossing, but anytime movies deliver some wonderful amusement and they never fail to be enjoyable viewing, no matter what sort of mood I am in at the time. They may not always be groundbreaking in their originality, and often draw upon an impressive variety of sources for inspiration, but they are all rule-breakers, shattering typical cinematic conventions and storytelling traditions with a subversive edginess or satirical intentions. Here’s a listing of my top five anytime movies…  

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension (1984)
Director: W.D. Richter
A comic-book pop culture masterpiece that’s partly inspired by Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze (1975), and Invaders From Mars (1953), this stars Peter Weller as scientist and hero Buckaroo, whose fantastic ‘Team Banzai’ (played by Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, and Lewis Smith) are fighting against a race of weird aliens, Lectroids from Planet 10, led by Dr Lizardo (John Lithgow). It’s fast-moving and wildly imaginative, and set in a world of half-reality where “Nothing is ever what it seems, but everything is exactly what it is.”     

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
Director: John Carpenter 

Heathers (1989)
Director: Michael Lehmann
Slick black comedy about a couple of teenagers on a killing spree, this is a witty spoof attacking everything wrong with modern American society and culture. Although it’s centred on a doomed high school, the murderous misadventures of new girl Veronica (Winona Ryder), and the psycho antics of her eager accomplice J.D. (Christian Slater in a career-defining performance) make this a darkly amusing treat. Although school movies by John Hughes, such as The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), have lost their charm over the last 25 years, Lehmann’s more acerbic flick-knife satire has kept its edge.      

RepoMan (1984)
Director: Alex Cox

Streets Of Fire (1984)  
Director: Walter Hill
Billed as ‘a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy’, this remixes 1950s biker movies and ‘cowboy cliché’ dialogue with glossy pop video aesthetics for an urban rescue thriller. Ultra–stylised, visually impressive, and full of musical energy, with songs by Jim Steinman and Dan Hartman in an eclectic Ry Cooder score, this features Diane Lane as the kidnapped rock singer, Michael Paré as the laconic hero, and Willem Dafoe as the chief bad guy.


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