I Hate the ’80s

Last week, I promised readers of the Apoplexy Tiny Letter a break from the political stuff, after the recent Democracy trilogy (1, 2, 3). And after last week’s Frankie Goes to Hollywood-mendous post, why not stay in the comforting nostalgic embrace of the ’80s?

Where's the pic of Michael Foot's donkey jacket?!
Dude. Those are clearly C21st Kayne shades.

I mean, seriously? Kayne, John Mayer, and The Police’s version of Message In a Bottle at 2007’s Live Earth concert to combat climate change made me want the Earth’s surface to be heated to 100,000,000°C. But we spoke about that sort of thing last week. And haemorrhagic stroke survivors are meant to keep their blood pressure down. So. Pleasant thoughts…

S-O-S by Abba, I mean
“Please help: they’re butchering one of my favourite songs!”

The Edinburgh Festival is approaching. Including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It’s like Christmas for Stroke Blokes!

To pump up the excitement to near unbearable levels, The List has been asking six Book Festival authors to nominate their favourite ’80s films.

"I can't wait till I get a makeover, and realise just how pretty I really am. *barf*
“The excitement…. It’s… unbearable.”

Well. The opportunity to do that sort of thing is exactly why I write. That and the dream of making it onto Just a Minute. Or being asked to do a Proust Questionnaire. So. My six favourite ’80s films. In no particular order. As they stood at around noon today.


There is no 10 year-old Ricky. Only Zuul.
10 year-old Ricky signs off on this entry

Watching it today, the original Ghostbusters isn’t that funny. But it had all the things that Little Ricky associated with an awesome ’80s movie. A great theme song. A novelisation with stills from the movie in the middle that dropped in the local John Menzies store a few weeks in advance of the movie’s release. And a female lead who adopted her stage name from a minor male character in The Great Gatsby.

Oh. No, wait. That’s 41 year-old Ricky.

Comfort and Joy

Don't mess – he'll grow up to be an android created by the Daleks
“Gie us yer autograph, Dickie!”

I don’t know how old I was when I saw Comfort and Joy on the telly at my aunt and uncle’s hotel in Strontian. But it had the same excitement of blog favourite Restless Natives, in being set in a recognisable Scotland –  the Glasgow of the Ice Cream Wars that had featured in the Reporting Scotland bulletins of my childhood. And the movie’s soundtrack is basically Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold album. The theme to Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero may be a soundtrack classic, but Telegraph Road still makes my top ten “pop” songs decades after I first heard it.

It comes from a Glasgow director who has made a specialty out of characters who are as real as you and me, and nicer than me – Ricky Brown Roger Ebert

The Princess Bride

"And another thing. Isn't 'Fred' a grown-ass man's name?"
“Oh, and, one last thing. Mrs Columbo was wondering – why are you off school, exactly?”

Speaking of Dire Strait’s Mark Knopfler, he also soundtracked The Princess Bride. In this 1987 Rob Reiner classic, Lt. Columbo uses his apparently curious and kindly demeanor to try to get to the bottom of a series of lies told by The Wonder Years‘ Kevin Arnold. And there’s some stuff about pirates, and a princess, and a giant, and a master swordsman.

I was introduced to this movie (together with The Goonies and other American ’80s classics I missed when I was watching Dickie Bird’s life fall apart in Comfort and Joy) after Beth and I started dating. I loved it all the more for being a grown-up, and it Nerd Bait’s The Wee Mermannie ended up taking the movie’s framing device as its starting point.


Did I say "watch"? I meant "read"!
“Oh, god. Please don’t make me watch any more.”

Another movie I saw on a small telly at an impressionable age. Terry Gilliam. Jonathan Pryce. Kim Greist. Robert De Niro. Bob Hoskins. Michael Palin. Tom Bloody Stoppard. It’s reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 – and although director Gilliam says he’s never read it, it’s nevertheless his “1984 for 1984″. You can probably blame Brazil,  the miner’s strike, and The Smiths for this blog.

Any similarities to a day-dreaming office functionary whose brain gets broke are purely coincidental. It says here.

Withnail and I

Don't get uptight with me, man. If I spike you, you'll know you've been spoken to.
‘Danny, you stupid bastard! It says “haemorrhagic stroke”!

Yet another movie seen on a small telly in an upstairs bedroom. Because oddly, no-one saw it in the movie theatre during its original run. Three Doctor Whos (one from the TVM, one who was meant to succeed Sylvester McCoy pre-cancellation, and one from an animated online BBC series before the resurrection). More quotable than the entire run of Monty Python.

I think this says it best:

We're going to have to return this for The Hipster
I like Quorn sausages and gin.

No, not that. This. Also from the Ladybird Books Book of The Husband.

He can remember football scores, all his old car number plates and most of the film Withnail And I. But he cannot remember what his wife asked him to bring back from the shops. This is because his brain is full up, not because he was not listening.

When Beth read that on Saturday on Facebook, she had to reply, Ricky’s been talking about Withnail and I all morning.

A coward you are, Withnail, an expert on bulls you are not!
Well, obviously, given this.

Bad Timing

Hi, mom!
“A sick film made by sick people for sick people” – Rank Distribution

Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing only just scrapes into contention. On the heels of his British classics Performance, Don’t Look Now, and blog favourite, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing was released in 1980. Almost immediately, it was withdrawn by Rank, its distributor, for twenty years. Rank described it as

a sick film made by sick people for sick people.

Hi, mom! Actually, the sick people who made the film are Nic Roeg, Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, and Denholm Elliot. Not terrible company, I guess.

Bad Timing is rarely seen. I finally saw it earlier this year at the Edinburgh Filmhouse cinema, as part of the University’s Spy Festival, and it wouldn’t have done to see it any earlier. In today’s climate – when the new Ghostbusters is receiving awesome word of mouth from my friends in the face of reactionary, sexist bullshit – and with the benefit of decades of experience, observation, and reading, Bad Timing looks like what it is. Whether Roeg intended it or not, Bad Timing is not a the sexist film its critics  have condemned it to be. I’m not saying it’s fun, but it’s a devastating take-down of the role of men in conventional relationships in a patriarchal society.

But this post is meant to be fun – damn you, Brazil, Morrissey, and the miners’ strike!

Fun? Who you gonna call?!
See you next week!








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7 thoughts on “I Hate the ’80s

  1. Fish called Wanda?
    Raiders of the lost ark?

    At least one of these seems conspicuously absent!

    1. Also I mildly object to you conflating “movies which were a big part of the 80s at the time” (ghostbusters; Brazil) with “movies which in retrospect we realized were part of canon” (with nail and I)

      It’s sort of like someone saying Doolittle is one of their favorite 80s albums*. I mean yeah ok sure. But it sort of misses the point. It’s temporally aligned but not pop-culturally really. You should sub it out with rio or something**. That would be more defensible.

      * I do this all the time
      ** I would scorn you forever if you said rio was better than Doolittle.

      1. Phew! I nearly popped an aneurysm before I got to the asterisks. I means, I get ya, buddy – but there are some things you just don’t joke about.

        Although, if you haven’t seen the late-period Durannies (avec Nick Rhodes) do White Lines live in Jersey, you haven’t experienced the late-period Durannies (avec Nick Rhodes) doing White Lines live in Jersey.

        Anyway. Just writing what I feel this week, maaaaan.

        1. Except that cover comes from their cover album which contains the duran Duran cover of 911 is a joke by public enemy which is my favorite horrible cover.

          Don’t try to out Duran me, Ricky. It ends in tears. Chuckle.

    2. Yes, but which one? I mean, it’s Wanda, but if I wanted to overtheorise every thing – not this week, for once – it’s every critic’s ur-80s movie, Raiders. Cos that’s the cool thing about ’80s movies – there’s this thread of wanting to make the movies the directors think of as what movie-making is all about. The childhood stuff. The stuff that’s their version of my ’80s. Raiders is the classic example, but there’s a hint of that in Empire, too. Which makes me think I should check out some more JJ Abrams stuff – he seems to be going for that throwback vibe a lot, except to the ’80s versions, not their precursors. Now that he’s disinterring the Cloverfield brand, maybe I’ll check that out….

  2. One ’80s movie you should see, if you haven’t already: After Hours. A very atypical Scorsese film with a great cast and one of the better New York stories of the decade (heck, of any decade after the ’70s).

    Also, Telegraph Road was one of my favorite rock epics from the ’80s. Used to love sitting in my room alone and getting lost in the song’s intricacies, then rocking out to the massive guitar solo at the end. Don’t listen to it much these days – Private Investigations gets the most airplay from that album.

    Finally – This Is Spinal Tap. Must be included in any list of great ’80s movies. It simply must.

    1. I haven’t seen that. But it’s going on the list. Ta! “A series of misadventures while making his way home from New York City’s SoHo district during the night”? Sold! In a different vein, we’ve been catching up with Mr Robot, and it’s great fun seeing NYC from the ground floor again. Beth’s been fact-checking the subway journeys!

      Yeah, that’s the Telegraph Road experience, alright. Worth revisiting, maybe? I walked past a window recently, and was sure I heard the Live in the City of Lights version of Simple Minds’ Ghostdancing. (“How more Scottish could you be? None. None more Scottish.”) Similarly, not something I’d cue up on the [music playback device], but the yeeeaaaaars-long break gave it the excitement of bumping into a long-lost friend. Anyway, what surprises me now is how well side 2 of Love Over Gold holds up, even with the Komic Kutz of Industrial Disease.

      And that’s a good catch on Spinal Tap. Particularly since during our recent trip to Cairnpapple Hill, not only did a bull in a field conjure up Withnail, it’s the site of a tiny henge. For the little people to dance around, no doubt. Have you seen Michael McKean’s turn in Better Call Saul? What happened to David St Hubbins? It’s like he’s an actor, or something!

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