110 Years of Claire Trevor Blogathon: Breaking Home Ties (1987)

This post is part of the Claire Trevor Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and The Wonderful World of Cinema. Claire Trevor was an actress I had seen but was nit conscious of before this blogathon, so I’m glad I joined up.

NOTES: 1. This film can be streamed on Hallmark Movies Now, which is available for a free seen-day trial 2. There were few photos of this film I was able to find online, none featured Claire Trevor unfortunately.

Breaking Homes Waves aired on ABC on November 27th, 1987 and is based on a Norman Rockwell painting by the same name, the film is written and directed by John Wilder. It stars Jason Robards as Lloyd, Eva Marie Saint as Emma, Doug McKeon (best known for On Golden Pond) as Lonnie; and, of course, Claire Trevor as Grace Porter was given the TV honorarium of “Special Guest Star.”

Despite being based on a work by the epitome of Americana, this film does go beneath the wholesome veneer to find the drama. It centers of Lonnie who is leaving home for the first time to attend college. While he’s adjusting academically and socially. At home, his mother, Emma, learns she has leukemia and decides not to tell her husband, Lloyd, or her son.

Claire Trevor comes in as Grace, a high school teacher, Lonnie being a former student of hers, and she is also a friend of the family. Her scenes in this film are few but significant. 

In her introductory scene she arrives at our protagonist’s home driving herself. Her first shot is a male gaze shot (While male gaze was an old-hat cinematic motif by the late-‘80s what makes this instance a little different is that both characters involved are senior citizens) that starts at her foot exiting the vehicle and pans up. This establishes the mutual attraction between Grace and Lloyd. That scene is the setup and we immediately sense the screen presence that earned her the special guest star credit, even if we were previously unfamiliar with her. During this very same year she also appeared on an episode of Murder She Wrote

When Grace speaks to Emma she asks how she’s doing especially considering Lonnie has just left for college. The bond Grace shares with Lonnie is revealed when she mentions that she never had kids but if she did he’d have been like Lonnie. Direction-wise this scene is a little off because the subtext that Grace carries a torch for Lloyd is clear but there’s never a reaction shot for Emma, so whether or not she’s any the wiser is unknown. We’re led to believe she’s not. 

Regardless of that Trevor carries much of the screen-time in this scene and emotes subtext through the surface of banal dialogue, which is a testament to her abilities.

Claire next appears when Lonnie comes home from school over Thanksgiving. This visit is at the beckoning of her mother because he and his success at college mean a lot to her. This is the part in the film where Trevor has her first significant involvement and is one of two storytelling scenes she has. Here she relates how this was her hometown and that she met a man, fell in love, and then traveled the road. What surprises Lonnie as a young man who has left the nest for the first time is that Grace’s returning home and teaching generations what she learned in the great big world gave her a renewed sense of purpose after losing her husband and brings her more joy than globetrotting did. Trevor in this scene effortlessly captures the energy of a sage who tells the tale quite naturally evidencing the progression of her acting style to a more modern sensibility, demonstrating that at this age she still had the chops. 

The next scene Claire Trevor has is her penultimate of the film, and finds Grace running into Lloyd in town near the pharmacist’s. At this point in the film the ailment that Emma has been hiding from her family is highly suspected by her husband. This adds a layer to the tension, this is on top of the sexual tension, as there is confirmation in this scene that there was a romantic past between the two. The restraint of emotion with clear communication between the scene partners here is most excellent. 

Spoiler Alert

Claire Trevor’s final scene in this film is one where Lonnie visits her at school after the death of his mother. This is another storytelling scene where she relates to Lonnie that she and Lloyd had a relationship after he was a student of hers. Due to this fact they broke it off in order to spare her reputation. She then met her eventual husband and Lloyd met Emma. This sequence consists of longer takes and Clair Trevor and Doug McKeon play off each other well. Moreover, the naturalistic style of delivery is still present. This scene paves the way for Lonnie to talk to Lloyd get his side of the story and bury the hatchet with him as he had been angry with his father when he didn’t understand his actions and now needed to vent and to understand his mother’s decision.

Claire Trevor plays a small but significant role in this film. There are times when the “special guest star” connotation is given due to an actor’s reputation and is not merited by the role and/or the material. Here it is deserved and Trevor shows to those who may not have known why her reputation preceded her into this film. 

The Movie Rat Schedule

I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of posting in themes. So that there is always a handy reference I have decided to post this schedule to tell you all what the main focus of my site will be at any time cinematically.

I will try and add more regular features and/or special features as we move into the new year but for now this is what I have enjoy.

What’s Changed?

-Added the update post to the schedule. Post updates will occur tomorrow.

-Added Series Tracker to schedule
-Added Silent Feature Sunday as a regular post
Changed date of BAM Nomination Announcements to 1/2/14 (to get past the whole New Year crossover craze).
-Shifted dates of BAM Best Picture Profiles
-Added Food for Thought starting January 13th


    Regular Features

Short Film Saturday

A short film is showcased each weekend.

Silent Feature Sunday

A new silent feature film post weekly.

BAM Award Considerations

Where I track candidates for all categories in my awards. New post monthly.

Mini-Review Round-Up

Short Reviews of non-theatrical but 2013 BAM- Award eligible films. New post monthly.

List of Films Seen

Where I list as accurately as I can what I’ve seen. Updated approximately bi-weekly.

Considerations for Favorite Older Film Seen

A list of the best older vintage film I’ve seen in a year for a separate list. Updated approximately bi-weekly.

Series Tracker

Where you can find links to special series and ongoing series that may post sporadically.

BAM Special Award Considerations

Posts that track candidates for Jury Awards, Lifetime Achievement, Neutron Star and Entertainer of the Year.

Update Posts

A bi-weekly post highlighting what’s been updated.

Special Features

Bela Tarr Retrospective

Starts Tuesday, May 7th

Part of winning the Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award will now, officially, include a retrospective the following year. Starting on Tuesdays in May I will re-examine the films of Bela Tarr.

September 1st – October 31st

61 Days of Halloween

A focus on horror-related review and write-ups.

November 1-28

Thankful for World Cinema

A focus on films made both outside the US and/ or not of the English Language.

November 29th- December 31st

Year-End Dash

A head-long sprint to try and get as many titles eligible for the BAM Awards as possible. Capsule reviews of year-end dash to add eligible titles. Updated daily.

BAM Best Picture Retrospective

December 8-19

A look back at the films that have won the Best Picture title at my awards.

December 23rd

BAM Awards Shortlists announced.

January 2

At some point after midnight EST, the nominees for the 2012 BAM Awards will be announced here via LIVE BLOG.

January 7

The Winners of the 2012 BAM Awards will be announced in a series of posts and they will be added to the historical lists.

January 8th to When Complete

Favorite Older Films First Seen in 2013.

January 13th-February 28

Food for Thought

An undetermined number of analytical pieces during a fairly slow time in the film cycle.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Kidco (Part 16 of 17)

Note: This article features in-depth plot analysis that may contain spoilers, read on at your own peril.

Kidco is another one of those fantastical films although it has a very grounded theme. It was written by a man, well let’s just say this was his best work, because Bennett Tramer went on to create probably the most famous television show that’s “So Bad It’s Good,” called Saved by the Bell. This film tells the story of Dickie Cessna, played aptly by Scott Schwartz. I happened to have obtained a copy of the film’s script and I think Tramer describes the protagonist best: “Dickie possesses the all-American good looks of a Norman Rockwell cover: sandy hair hanging over his forehead, healthy tanned complexion, a big toothy grin…Combined with the shrewd eyes and alert demeanor of a junior executive who yearns to be running the company himself. Dickie’s only twelve years old — but he’s been looking for an angle since he was in the womb.”

We start off watching his Keno scheme at school which is busted by the principal. He also tricks some Japanese tourists to go on a moose trail when touring his father’s ranch and dangles a moose head from out of the bushes. He’s the quintessential 80s hero; anything for a buck, but he’s the little guy so who’s gonna come after him? The crummy feds, of course. We first meet with these agents when they come to inspect his father’s ranch because the Board of Taxation needs to appraise his assets. First, Dickie gives them bad directions and then when they arrive his sisters lead them to the barn where they supposedly live and put on an act of misery. 

Kidco (1984, 20th Century Fox)

Dickie’s father tells him he has to stop running scams in school so he takes him up on the loophole. Yet then he stumbles on to a legitimate business opportunity when he sees they throw away piles and piles of manure everyday and all the local companies are complaining that Orville Peterjohn, the town tycoon, is charging them an arm and a leg for fertilizer.

Their first client is the owner of a local driving range and they go on from there. Peterjohn starts to lose business so he gets in contact with the feds. He wants them investigated after he sees them on a talk show where they claimed to have made $30,000 in profits over the summer. They are then charged with not paying sales tax, not having a seller’s permit and not listing the contents of the product. Not only are they brought to trial, but Dickie and Bette Cessna (Tristine Skyler) decide to defend themselves. This provides for some of the most hysterical moments in this film.

Kidco (1984, 20th Century Fox)

At one point, Dickie decides he needs to deliver a speech to state his case and says closing with “The United States could’ve been the greatest country in the world but they had to go and bust Kidco.” This is also a film that deals heavily with the fundamental differences between children and adults and Dickie says “Youth is wasted on the young. Children should be seen and not heard. Your honor, if we believed in cruddy old sayings like that Kidco wouldn’t have made a cent.” While Dickie’s vocabulary is lacking he is always brutally honest and has no problems insulting a lawyer which is always fun to watch and what this film has which I think is great is a triumphant defeat.

They get out of the sales tax because their father has already paid sales tax on the hay and oats the horses ate that became the manure. It’s a great moment because you see it coming and Dickie says “Your honor we’re getting taxed at both ends!” The judge under heavy media and political scrutiny to be easy on the kids quickly dismisses the charges. Then the prosecutor reminds him the other charges still stand before the court. There is a plea bargain struck because there’s really no way they’ll be completely absolved. They’ll be given a special seller’s permit and must pay practically all their profit’s worth in fines. The triumph comes when they walk outside.

Kidco (1984, 20th Century Fox)

There is a gathering of thousands of kids and Dickie gets up before them and starts talking, riling them up. Neil (Tom Mackie), a cub reporter who’s been helping them out, gives Dickie a box full of orders for Kidco T-Shirts then Dickie grabs a bullhorn and says: “And we wanna tell you, you just made us enough dough to pay our fine…and buy supper for every kid in San Diego! Maybe now those bozos will pick on someone their own size” then he announces plans for a new shirt with his picture on it. And the kids chant “Kid-co, Kid-co, Kid-co.” Some of the details in this film are really what make it work. For example, instead of baseball pennants over his bed Dickie has pennants of Ford, Standard Oil and General Motors. And at the very end there are protest signs that read: “In Kids We Trust,” “Peter Pan Lives,” “Children’s Coalition,” “Kids Liberation,” “Suffrage for Kids” and “Equal Rights for Kids.”

These signs are fantastic. The whole tone of the movie is perfect. In many films made in the United States children are given little or no respect as people they are portrayed as stupid, whiny, troublemakers. Few and far between are the films that treat them with any respect. This film screeches for and demands that respect. Not only that but it’s a great portrayal of big business in the 80s where kids were also looking for money and identifying themselves with corporations. Kidco might be a strange and unusual little film but it is most definitely funny and it is definitely a film of the 80s.

Work Cited: Tramer, Bennet. Kidco. Screenplay. September 1982, Frank Yablans Productions.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Amazing Grace and Chuck (Part 15 of 17)

Warning: This post features in depth story analysis, which includes spoilers. If you have not seen this film proceed at your own risk or not at all.

This film was the catalyst for this paper. I think what I admire above all else in filmmaking is bravery and I think it was very risky to make this film. This is an idealistic fairy tale about global nuclear disarmament and of political martyrdom. David Field, writer, and Mike Newell, director, knew no fear in making this film, there was no ceiling for how far it could go. While it’s an outlandish tale, it admits as such, and gives it even more redeeming value in the process.

The film very early on inserts a title stating “Once Upon A Time There was a Boy…” it’s a fairy tale, for some reason some Americans just cannot comprehend that a fairy tale can be depicted in a live action film. What we have in this film is a grassroots movement. A boy, Chuck Murdock (Joshua Zuehlke), is taken on a field trip to a missile silo one day. The kids are shown an actual missile, Chuck is the only one who questions its existence and is also very frightened because his father is in the Air Force. After the trip the Congressman who led them around pulls him aside and tells him “That missile will never be used, that’s why it was built,” it’s that kind of thinking that got us in an arms race stockpile and made us want to scare the other guy into not using their weapons. That night Chuck has a nightmare that he is caught at the silo during a nuclear attack.

The next day when he gets on the pitcher’s mound he decides to quit baseball. He states it’s “his best thing,” and no one understands why their star pitcher walked off the field. Then he explains that he won’t play baseball again until there are no more nuclear weapons.

Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987, TriStar Pictures)

The other protagonist of this film is a professional basketball player nicknamed “Amazing Grace” Smith, played by Alex English who was a player for the Denver Nuggets at the time this film was produced. We see him playing, hit a three-point shot and give his famous three fingers in the air gesture, after the game his agent/best friend, Lynn (Jaime Lee Curtis) reads him an article about Chuck and the wheels start spinning.

With the memory of his wife and daughter gnawing at his mind, Amazing decides to quit basketball and do like Chuck did, an official protest has begun. At one point someone asks Amazing “Do you really think you’re going to bring an end to nuclear weapons?” Amazing turns to him and says “I don’t know but wouldn’t it be nice.” This soon starts a snowball effect and so many athletes join the cause that professional sports are crippled and the movement spreads worldwide. So leftist is this film that Ted Turner was a consultant and used this film to promote CNN with many news reports in the film brandishing their logo.

The protest continues and gains national recognition. Chuck meets with the president and he eventually proposes that the Americans and Russians will disarm within seven years but this plan is rejected because the President (Gregory Peck) might not be in office by then. The protest causes problems between Chuck and his father and Amazing Grace starts getting anonymous phone calls. A powerful businessman, who has been threatening Amazing Grace, tricks him into getting on one of his planes and then he blows it up. Following Amazing Grace’s death Chuck vows not to talk anymore and this movement sweeps across the world and forces another meeting between the Russian Premier and the President.

Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987, TriStar Pictures)

We see them meeting at people in Montana in a cabin just a few miles from Chuck’s home. The President opens by saying “Are your grandchildren talking to you?” the Premier laughs and says “No.” Then they talk about how troubling it is that they’re losing their children. And ultimately this is what the disarmament would be for: so they don’t lose their children. They agree on total nuclear disarmament immediately. And, of course, the president goes to visit Chuck and thanks him.

Now a lot happens in these two hours and it all ends with Chuck stepping back up on the mound. The Russian Premier is there, so’s the President. The catcher starts to give him signs he shakes off the fastball one, and the curve two, and then he turns to the crowd and makes the three-point gesture. And every one stands and repeats the gesture, yeah it’s been done to death but in this film it all works. Chuck looks up to the heavens when he’s poised and says a word to Amazing, he throws the pitch and we follow the ball in close shot as it spins through the sky and cut to black and then there’s a title it reads:

“But wouldn’t it be nice.”
-Amazing Grace Smith

Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987, TriStar Pictures)

This is a film that is idealist and dares to dream. It takes the fears of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and combines them with the hope of Glasnost and presented us with a fantasy. The poster for this film should tell you it’s a fantasy. And it’s one that only could have come out of the 80s, this film literally drips 80s. In the 1990s, and especially in the present, disarmament was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. It’s a great film about one person can make a difference and a film with a message.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: The Breakfast Club (Part 14 of 17)

Warning: This article features in depth plot analysis. If you have not seen this film you are urged not to read on. Spoiler alert administered.

John Hughes was a big name in the 1980s, but more so as a writer/producer than as a director. He started off as a writer with the National Lampoon’s crew. While it’s true he did work in a formulaic manner, and did practically invent the template for the teen film of the 80s; he did strike gold from time to time. The teen film of the 80s was so badly adapted to the 90s it spawned a spoof film called Not Another Teen Movie at the turn of the century. Hughes became a big player as a writer/producer but rarely directed his own scripts. He directed this film but his other films ran the gamut quality-wise from Weird Science, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and Curly Sue to Vacation, The Great Outdoors and Home Alone. Hughes’ best directorial efforts were this film and Trains, Planes and Automobiles; regardless of all that this is his seminal work.

We start with a quote by David Bowie which is much better in the written word than it is in the song itself: “…And these children/ That you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/ Are immune to your consultations,/They are quite aware/ Of what they’re going through…” and the image shatters so we begin…

The Breakfast Club is in essence two things: it is first a character study and secondly, a timeless manifesto of teen angst. The setting is Saturday detention, our five protagonists are all here for reasons of their own but they are thrown together in the school library for eight hours and have to co-exist though they are very different. This is one of Hughes’ great situations and has been repeated on shows like Dawson’s Creek. Hughes is a master of creating a great situation for comedy. The premise of Sixteen Candles is that everyone has forgotten the main character’s birthday and it was a plot of one episode on practically every sitcom in the 1980s. This film is almost a play it is so dialogue-driven, however, if you turned it into a play I don’t think it’d work not that that’s going to stop anyone from trying [I’ve since learned at a screening with a Q & A hosted by Kevin Smith that this film was initially written as a stage play].

The Breakfast Club (1985, Universal)

“Anyone who moans that cinema in the 80s amounted to the death of dialogue and the triumph of action Jackson, should take a look at this movie. It’s all talk.”

The characters are immediately defined as we see them dropped off at school. Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) is told by his mother to use his time to study, he protests saying he isn’t supposed to study and she says he has to find a way; he’s the brain. Andrew (Emilio Estevez) is being reamed out by his father that he won’t get a scholarship if he gets caught again that and his letter jacket tell us; he’s the jock. Claire (Molly Ringwold) is being told that cutting school doesn’t make her a defective; she’s the popular girl or the princess. Allison (Ally Sheedy) is dropped off without a word when she goes to say goodbye the car speeds off and almost runs over Bender (Judd Nelson) so we have the last two, the basket case and the criminal. These labels are very important because that’s what we all perceive them as in the beginning and how they perceive each other and we learn about these characters and they bond with each other. While they’re in detention they’re each supposed to write a 1,000 word essay but they choose to do something else instead.

Why they ended up in detention ends up being like the “Rosebud” of this film. Except in this film it is but a gimmick. In their discussions, we find out more and more about these characters and what pushed them there. We find out about their home lives and for all of them there is something that makes it unbearable for them. In a very memorable scene Bender re-enacts a typical night in his house and depicts an argument between his parents. When Andrew doesn’t believe him he lifts his sleeve and says “See this? It’s about the size of a cigar. See this is what you get in my house when you spill paint in the garage.” Andrew relates how his father was always browbeating him to be number one and how he’s been made to hate weakness. Claire’s affections are a prize her parents keep fighting over since their divorce. Brian relates how he nearly killed himself, albeit with a flair gun, because he got a B in shop and his parents demand academic excellence from him “I can’t have it, and my parents can’t have it,” he says. At the end, we find out Allison’s problem is that her parents outright ignore her and that’s why she’s been contemplating running away. Their discussion concludes with the question “My God are we all going to turn into our parents” and Allison “It’s inevitable at a certain age your heart dies,” which leads us to the antagonist.

The Breakfast Club (1985, Universal)

The villain in this film is Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason). He is the establishment. And when he gets Bender alone he ranks him out like nobody’s business, and you just want to punch him right in the face, and he even gives Bender the chance to but Bender’s not used to this brutal honesty and is scared to death. I’d even say his tough guy image is an act even though he does have a hellish home life. Vernon also talks to the janitor and complains that “Every year these kids are getting more and more arrogant,” and then the Janitor speaks the truth saying “Come on, Vern, the kids haven’t changed you have. What do you think you’d think of yourself at their age?” and that ends the conversation. The principal is the embodiment of everything these kids hate and fear becoming. And he also gives a very good and funny performance. The teen angst of this film is apparent. When this film becomes a manifesto is when at the end they decide to ask Brian to write their essay for them and he agrees.

While there is a montage at the beginning of all that is high school. This is also a striking visual sequence. We see Vernon holding the paper, Claire and Bender being romantic, Andrew and Allison holding hands and Brian getting into his car. And we hear Brian doing a voice-over narration:

“Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

The Breakfast Club (1985, Universal)

And as the narration ends we see Bender walking across the football field and he pumps his fist in the air as “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds plays the frame freezes. It’s the best, and one of the few acceptable, freeze frame endings I’ve ever seen; it’s perfect.

Some of the vernacular in this film is very 80s for example I don’t think I’ll ever know what “Neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie” is but the themes and storyline that run through this film are timeless such that I only came to see this film about three years ago (as of this writing). It’s a great piece of adolescent rebellion and a great comedy undoubtedly Hughes’ best work.

Works Cited: p. 33 Brat Pack: Confidential Andrew Pulver and Steven Paul Davies. BT Batsford: London, 2000.
The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes. 1985. featuring Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwold, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Gleason. Universal Pictures.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Parenthood (Part 13 of 17)

Warning: this article features in depth story analysis and several plot points are revealed. If you have not seen the film, read at your own peril.

What The Neverending Story is to 80s fantasy Parenthood is to the family film of the 80s, although I doubt you’ve ever seen anything like it before or since. The film was written by Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz a writing team that date back to the 70s working on Laverne and Shirley and they still work together, which is a rarity in this day and age. They’re credits include Gung Ho, Multiplicity, A League of Their Own and Spies Like Us and Parenthood was directed by Ron Howard who has always made pretty good films. 

This film has one of the best opening scenes. A father (who will later be Jason Robards) brings his son to a baseball game but has to go see some clients so he leaves him with an usher and it’s his 9th birthday. The usher sits next to him and starts a conversation the boy responds and says “You’re not really here. You’re an amalgam. A combination of all the ushers my dad left me with over the years. You see my dad, when he was a kid, was without a positive male influence,” and so on. This is hysterical dialogue coming from a kid and there’s a partial break in the fantasy and we see his wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen); still as a kid he tells the usher that’s his wife. “The game’s over, honey,” and the fantasy is broken. We see Gil (Steve Martin) get up, no longer a boy but a middle-aged father of three.

Parenthood (1989, Universal)

That sets the stage. What’s different about Parenthood is that it shows many of the problems a family can go through by depicting an extended family that has more interaction than most American families. Gil and Karen’s main concern is for their son Kevin who has emotional difficulties and gets too tense at school. We witness their struggle against the public school’s administration who want to label him ‘special’ when we can clearly see he’s a normal child. Then there are his sisters Susan (Harley Kozak) and Helen (Dianne Wiest). Susan is married to a super-genius, Nathan (Rick Moranis) who is grooming their daughter Patty to be a genius as well. He gives her vocabulary flashcards and teaches her complicated algebra and reads Kafka to her, although she’s just four. Helen, meanwhile, is divorced from her husband and left to raise the rebellious and monosyllabic Gary (Joaquin Phoenix f.k.a. Leaf Phoenix) and the love-struck Julie (Martha Plimpton). Then there’s Larry (Tom Hulce) the get-rich-quick-schemer who never worked a day in his life who comes home to a family reunion with a son named Cool, who’s black. His explanation being “I was dating this show girl; she was doing this show Elvis on Ice. Anyway, she shows up with Cool one day and says ‘You take Cool. I shot someone. I have to leave the country. That’s a parent?’ Then of course, the patriarch, Jason Robards, who has some difficult decisions to make along the way.

These sagas play out so cleverly and realistically and everything in this film just works. Gil and Karen refuse to have their son put in special education and they say they’ll take him to a therapist and send him to a private school rather than have him stigmatized. What really works about the meeting is that at first there is finger-pointing but they are also defiant of the public school system, which just doesn’t work. Gil promises to get a second job and his job, getting more clients and trying to work more hours becomes a crucial part of this film. Towards the end of the film after Gil is passed over for a promotion in favor of Phil Richards, a man who is a ghost in this film, we hear about but never see him, who is single and has time to tender to his clients every need; Gil in a fit of rage quits. He comes home and his wife tells him she’s pregnant. This is one of the few films in the 80s that actually deals openly with the issue of abortion. And it’s even more difficult to do in a comedy but it’s very well-handled. We also hear some of Martin’s funniest lines here: “Let’s see how we can screw the fourth one up? Hey, I know, let’s have five, let’s have six, why don’t we have a dozen and pretend they’re donuts?” In the end they have their baby and what’s great is that Kevin does have his shining moment by winning his team a baseball game but it’s not a cure-all he goes on living day by day that won’t permanently fix the problem, just like Gil saving his birthday party didn’t as Karen pointed out, and that’s real.

Parenthood (1989, Universal)

Susan’s struggle is that she finds no romance in her life anymore and she’s frustrated that Nathan’s only concern is turning Patty into the next Kierkegaard. When she tells him they could go to Mexico over the summer he immediately thinks it’s a great chance for Patty to learn Spanish. Susan’s suggestion that she stays at Gil’s is shot down because he doesn’t like her being there. So when Nathan says we’ll get two rooms, she asks herself “Which one will I be in?” While Gil and Karen go through a crisis with their children and how best to raise them Susan and Nathan’s relationship is on the brink of falling apart. At one point, Nathan finds her diaphragm has holes in it and it starts a major fight because everything is academic with him and you must wait five years between having children. Susan is so frustrated by her relationship with him that she breaks up via flashcards. Yet we see that all she wants is to be wooed when Nathan comes into her classroom where she teaches one day singing their wedding song. At the end of this film, they’re happy and Patty has finally been allowed to be a child which was one of their major arguments.

Helen’s is the most difficult and heartwarming of all the family conflicts overcome in this film. Despite all the seemingly melodramatic events in this film it is most definitely a comedy but a very intelligent and well-constructed one that has something to say. Julie is madly in love with Tod (Keanu Reeves). We’re introduced to her as she’s hiding Tod under her bed. After her mother leaves he comes back out and they start to make love and he takes pictures. We don’t see anything and it’s very tastefully done, but the story takes a great twist. One of the best moves by the writers is the pictures. Julie and Tod go to a one hour photo booth and pick up their photos and see their mother at a work party. They go back to see if there’s another envelope for Buckman and find it was already picked up. When Julie gets home this leads to a fight that has her leave the house and move in with Tod. The fight also has some of the best lines of the film in it. Helen is looking at the picture and says “Woo, here’s one for my wallet.”

Parenthood (1989, Universal)

Through the whole movie Helen can’t get through to Gary until she breaks into his padlocked room and finds a stash of porn. After Helen talks to Tod she finds out that Gary had felt like a pervert until they had talked. See even the brain-dead boyfriend in this movie serves a purpose? Julie comes home married and her troubles with Tod escalate. Helen goes out with Gary’s science teacher and it all ends with Julie also giving birth. Now many people have overemphasized the “giving birth as a road to happiness theory” in this movie and that’s just rubbish. First, to make a happy ending and have everyone reunited; where better than a maternity ward? Secondly, the births are symbolic of life going on and the families moving on and moving past their problems, and are not to be taken in an overly-political way. Helen, for example, found peace within her family before she and her daughter gave birth.

What also makes this movie different is that there’s not a happy ending for everyone and not everyone sees the light, so to speak. Part of the strength of this film is that Larry never changes. His father has a restored car that Larry drives off with and has appraised because he owes gangsters $20,000. Prior to this encounter Frank, the father, talks to Gil and asks his advice because he knows Gil is “a good father,” and they share their miseries and the most poignant line of the film the father says “It never ends. It doesn’t matter if you’re 30 or 40 or 80, he’ll always be my son, just like Kevin is your son.” Towards the end Larry comes to his dad asking for help paying them off because he blew the money he’d gotten earlier at the track. If he doesn’t come up with the money he’ll die. In a very poignant scene we see Larry waiting by shaking his watch back and forth on his wrist. His father will pay them $1,000 a month but the worst part of it for us is that he’ll have to put off his retirement. Larry is so self-involved that not only has he found another shady business deal, this time in South America, but he almost forgets Cool and his father spares him the trouble and says he’ll take care of him.

Parenthood (1989, Universal)

In all this drama it’s hard to see the humor in the film so here’s some: When Tod begs Julie to come back after a momentary breakup she says “I wouldn’t live with you if the world was flooded with piss and you lived in a tree,” when Larry comes home Gil’s son Justin asks “Who’s that?” Gil responds “It’s my kid brother, Larry, your uncle. Don’t give him any money.” And the list goes on and on. This is truly a great movie about how insane family life is and how we tend to need each other anyway. This film made nearly $100 million when it was released in 1989 yet, oddly, I’ve heard few people talk about it. This is probably Steve Martin’s best work before he started writing and showing us his intellectual side, not that this film isn’t smart, but it’s no Picasso at the Lapin Agile. This is most definitely one of the most underrated films I’ve ever seen and a quintessential 80s comedy that no one can top.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: The Neverending Story (Part 12 of 17)

Note: This piece contains in depth story analysis. It is not recommended reading if you’ve not seen the film.

Five Films

We’ve taken a very broad look at the 80s. Now I want to take a closer look at five films that in their own unique way captured a different part of the 80s flavor. In my opinion, they are at least great pieces of entertainment, and on some level great films. One film The Neverending Story I rediscovered as an adult; one, Parenthood, I saw as a child, the other three I saw for a first time as a mature viewer. Each of them capture the character and magic of the 80s in their visuals, plot and themes and in such a different way I’ve included them all here:

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story (1984, Warner Bros.)

This is a film adapted from a book, which was a phenomenon written by German children’s author Michael Ende. It was produced entirely in Germany with an English-speaking cast thus the official title of the film is Die Unendliche Geschichte. The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. This was, in fact, his follow up to Das Boot. This is a film I watched anew after many years of not having seen it anywhere. I first saw this when I was in the fourth grade. In fact, it was screened to us before we went on a field trip to see the sequel. The next time I saw this film again was a year or two ago on cable (as of this writing). I was absolutely amazed by the sheer fantasy and wonder of this film. The affect this film has is timeless and perhaps it’s even more profound now.

The tale is about a boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver), this name does carry symbolism as it is similar to bastion, and our protagonist lives in a dream-world. Ironically, he will visit a world of fantasy and there will be created another great symbiosis of the 80s. The difference between adults and children is also drawn out right away in this film. His father (Gerald McCraney) yells at him because he was drawing horses in class. Bastian corrects him and says they were Unicorns and his father doesn’t understand what he said. This is fundamental dichotomy: Adults lose their imagination and prefer pragmatism. 

We see the plight that makes Bastian escape to his fantasy world when three bullies accost him. As fate would have it, he stumbles into a book store run by Mr. Koreander (Thomas Hill). Barret Oliver was a young actor of some note in the 1980s, he was no Henry Thomas but he had some good performances, this one was not especially convincing. It is especially weak when he challenges Koreander saying he does read. This meeting introduces one of the many towering concepts these ideas are amazing on their own but we find them all here in one gem of a film. These concepts are: 1) A story that has no end, 2) Fantasia is the world of human fantasy and has no borders, 3) Fantasia is starting to die because people have begun to lose hope, 4) The Nothing, 5) The reader is actually part of the story. 

The Neverending Story (1984, Warner Bros.)

Great concepts are essential to a good fantasy and here we have it five great ones. I will expound on them now. Obviously the narrative within cinematic context must end but the idea of this book Bastian finds doesn’t is that everyone who reads it forms the story. All the imaginations of the world form their universe; it’s great. The first example of the great production design is the book that contains The Neverending Story. It has on its cover two snakes that are eating each other which give us an alternate symbol for eternity. 

The story he experiences (isn’t that what we do with the very best stories, experience them, we also don’t want them to end) takes place in Fantasia which is the world that is created by the dreams of human beings. What’s great is that there is an inference that we will identify with this story because everyone who reads this book will shape the tale and they are ultimately the ones who will save Fantasia. 

All this talk of saving Fantasia leads me to the next great idea. The Nothing is literally nothing, the film explains this right away “A hole would be something no it was, nothing,” the Rock Biter says. The Nothing has come about because people have started to lose hope and have stopped dreaming. “And people who had lost hope are easy to control.” The reader, Bastian, must complete the story such that Fantasia can be saved. Thus, we can also infer a grander vision that every time someone some one stops dreaming part of Fantasia dies. Its fate is always in the balance.

The Neverending Story (1984, Warner Bros.)

The reader’s active participation in the story is also a great touch. Everyone at one point or another wanted to shape the story they were reading. This is a great piece of fantasy and in this manner the film has two heroes: Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), who goes on a classic fantastical quest to try and save the Childlike Empress, whose death would end Fantasia; and Bastian, who manages to recreate Fantasia even when there was only a speck of sand left just by the power of his imagination! This also creates another bookish film a lá The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is less a cinematic adaptation but embracing of two separate art forms. 

The flow of this story is unbelievably smooth and quick. While it’s a little over 90 minutes long a bad or poorly paced 90 minute film can feel like it’s two hours long or more. We are introduced to the idea of the nothing by an assorted cast of fantastic creatures: a night-hob, a racing snail and a Rock Biter, a rock-formed creature that eats rocks. They travel to the Ivory Tower, this is one of the magnificently designed sets of the film, even though this first shot is probably just a matte painting it is just fantastic. Then there are The Swamps of Sadness, Engyebook’s Hut and the Ivory Tower itself are as other examples of fantastic sets made for this film. At the Tower news of the Empress’s illness and its connection to the Nothing are given and a brave warrior is called to go on a quest to find the one who can defeat the nothing, one who lives beyond the boundaries of Fantasia.

Atreyu proves he’s the one who’s meant to go on this quest; Noah Hathaway had a great fantastical accent which seems as if it was an amalgam of British and Australian speech patterns. Bastian immediately identifies with Atreyu and we identify with both of them in turn. It seems the amount of symbiotic connections this film makes is endless. The two snakes turn out to be the AURYN, a magical amulet that protects the wearer. Yet another classic fantasy element; it’s such mishmash and yet the story itself is so much more unique than most 80s fantasy like Legend, which was purposefully a combination many fantasy epics.

The Neverending Story (1984, Warner Bros.)

Atreyu journeys through the Swamps of Sadness where if you let the sadness that emanates from the place get to you, you will sink into the mud and die. He is brave and makes it but his horse Artax dies. This is a huge event not only in the film’s dramatic context but production-wise this is a bold move in a kid’s movie where only someone like Disney usually had the guts to do something like that. He then encounters Morla the Ancient One. The dialogue in this scene is great. Morla keeps referring to itself as “we” and Atreyu asks “Are there more than one of you.” The response “We haven’t talked to anyone in so long. So we started to talking to ourselves.” Morla later starts sneezing because it’s literally allergic to youth.

He’s told he must go to see the Southern Oracle, which is more than 10,000 miles away. As Atreyu walks dejected through the swamp, we see class at Bastian’s school is no longer in session but he stays to continue reading because he can’t put the book down. Atreyu is taken most of the way by Falkor a full animatronic luck-dragon that was 43-feet in length. There Atreyu meets Engyebook and Urgl an old couple who fight incessantly. Engyebook is a scientist and does everything experimentally and never takes a chance in his life. There are two gates you must pass before reach the Oracle are giant twin sphinxes, these are another pair of great symbolic moments. The premise of the first gate is that anyone who doesn’t feel their own worth is destroyed by the gate. Beams shoot out of the sphinxes eyes and kill the unworthy. We see a man in armor get burned. This film stayed PG oddly enough despite the fact that we see his face burnt to a crisp and the statues have large exposed breasts. Atreyu makes it through after some trepidation and the second gate is the magic mirror gate where he must come face to face with his true self and who does he see in the mirror but Bastian. This is the second time Bastian is given a hint that the people in the story know of him. The third time the Empress pleads outright with him telling him every place Bastian had followed Atreyu and pleads for a name.

This film has developed quite a cult following although it had quite a good run at the box-office. There are many websites online dedicated both to the film and the novel. The seemingly great mystery of the film is what Bastian’s mother’s name is because this is the Empresses new name. He yells it out the window during a storm and it seems purposely drowned out. On the DVD there is no subtitle to tell us what he says even when you have the feature on. This is one of Petersen’s greatest touches. It could be any kid’s mother’s name, even though if you listen carefully you can decipher it (hint: it’s the same thing he says in the book.). His best work was in adapting the novel to film. He didn’t try to adapt the whole thing, but saw a definite point where the novel stops telling one story and starts telling another. At page 180 of the novel Bastian has saved Fantasia, in the book he goes there and it wanders off into battles with Xiathis, which are used and terribly adapted in the sequel. Petersen had great foresight and knew, this is the best part of the book, and this is my film, Ende can keep the rest.

The Neverending Story (19484, Warner Bros.)

The Neverending Story is a great departure for Wolfgang Petersen. It is also a monumental fantasy, and perfect for the 1980s where it seemed people were starting to lose hope, and they had some good reasons to, but the cinema was trying to give them something to hold onto. The novel was on the bestseller list in Germany for four years and the film became a phenomenon in and of itself. It’s a little gem that could only have been a product of the 80s. 

End Notes

Miraculously the film does succeed as Oliver is a supporting player. The film does have kinks in its armor like why an attic key is so easy for him to find in a school but it still works and you’ll see why.

In Ende’s novel the land is called Fantastica but it was changed to Fantasia in the film so that people would have a name they could identify with and also to make allusion to the Disney film.

Morla is a giant tortoise who literally is the Shell Mountain. It’s gender is never established one way or another, however, if forced to guess I believe Morla is a woman.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Television (Part 11 of 17)

This is a recapitulation of a paper I did in college. This is part eleven in the series to read other parts go here.

As time has moved on the line between television and the movies has become blurred. In the 90s and continuing through until today no TV show is safe from becoming a feature film at some point and with Nick at Nite and TV Land there’s no longer a as much of a generation gap because these shows can be seen by all now. 

The landscape of television changed forever in the 1980s when the Fox Network, headed by Rupert Murdoch, was launched. For a few years they were the butt of jokes but they soon went on to challenge the major networks with shocking, biting, satirical programming such as Married…with Children, The Simpsons, Martin and In Living Color and later even had their own cult phenomenon, The X-Files. Fox busted the monopoly ABC, CBS and NBC had. In the mid-90s The WB, a network by Warner Brothers, and UPN, Paramount, were born, and the WB is currently a tenth of a point out of third in the Nielsen ratings (As of this writing. The WB and UPN have since merged to form the CW). 

Cable television along with MTV, previously discussed, became a reality and by the end of the decade was commonplace in American households. HBO (Home Box Office) along with Ted Turner’s stations TNT (Turner Network Television), TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) and CNN (Cable News Network) gave cable a great appeal, particularly with Turner’s purchase of the MGM film library. HBO’s selection in the beginning was small and obscure, but they slowly began to gain an audience.

Silver Spoons (CBS)

Network television at the beginning of the decade was very interested in affluence, not nocessarily middle class America. There was Dallas, Dynasty, Silver Spoons – then there was a slight change where the rich could help the poor in Diff’rent Strokes which actually did have a social agenda that was immediately copied in Webster. 

Family programming was very important, and was at the top of the ratings for much of the decade with The Cosby Show, ALF, The Facts of Life, a family of sorts, and Family Ties. While Dallas was rolling along in 1982 along came a cross-section of America called Cheers this program was nominated for 117 Emmys during its 11 year run. 

In the later 80s we had two strong-minded and independent women burst on to the small screen in a big way. The first was Candice Bergen playing Murphy Brown; this is one of my favorite shows because of what it could do by having the protagonist be a reporter; the show was always current and always very political. In the early 90s Candice/Murphy got into a public war of words with Dan Quayle who objected to Murphy Brown having a baby out of wedlock. It was a truly intelligent show and every episode worked beautifully and the cast knew how to work as an ensemble. There was also Roseanne, starring a former stand up who described herself as a “domestic goddess,” coupled with The Simpsons she lead the attack of the dysfunctional families. On Roseanne no matter how weird things got we saw they’re just a family like any other. They have different problems and manias but they do love each other.

Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (1985, DiC)

In the 1980s animation was practically all TV the Looney Toons and Woody Woodpecker were all relegated to re-runs and the half-hour animated program was king and there were some good ones. The always hard to categorize Jim Henson had Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies. Thames Productions brought us some of the most unique programming in this genre with Danger Mouse, a mouse who was a spy and Count Duckula, a vegetarian vampiric duck. There were, of course, mythic heroes like Thundercats, Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and his sister She-Ra. Most popular cartoon series of the 80s never made it to the big screen in the decade, He-Man did and that was miserable, there was also a Rainbow Brite film, but no Smurfs (yet) or Snorks, and most shockingly, no Thundercats, which was shot like a film with weird angles and was a precursor to the anime craze that was to follow in the 90s.

While television in the 80s catered much more to what mature audiences wanted to see, it also knew what kids wanted to see because many of these shows still air today. Television is always going to be television, you’ll get entertained here and there but you can’t watch too much without realizing it will almost always the same thing in a different package. Every few years something new will come along and really blow you away but that’s it, and sometimes it doesn’t last. TV in the 80s was better than in the 90s because there was something to reflect. There was a social point to make, and on occasion there were serious political happenings that deserved attention. The 90s were just something we made it through and the 80s were a decade people lived through. Needless, to say the best show of the 90s was Seinfeld a self-professed show about nothing a show that dabbled in the minutiae of everyday events, not that it’s not a brilliant show, but it’s also a tremendously apropos reflection of the decade.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Genremeld (Part 10 of 17)

This is a recapitulation of a paper I did in college. This is part eight in the series to read other parts go here.

Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Creepshow, Weird Science, Time Bandits, Splash, Big, Back to the Future, The Witches of Eastwick and My Stepmother is an Alien all of these films crossed genres to try and make something new and unique, and this was a staple of 80s filmmaking.

It has been said that nothing really original has been said after 1800. In film much the same conundrum exists in that there really are no new stories, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t crave films. More so than any other decade prior the 80s were expert at recombining genres and on occasion creating something new or at least different enough that everyone flocked towards it.

One of the great hits of the genremeld was Gremlins. Never before or since has there been such a perfect balance of the horrific and comedic. There’s no tongue-in-cheek here it wants you to laugh and gasp in the same breath.

Gremlins (1984, Warner Bros.)

In the film Gremlins we have two important things occurring: first, this is one of the first films of the Spielberg School. It was written by Chris Columbus while he was attending NYU he later went on to work with Spielberg on The Goonies. It was directed by Joe Dante a former Corman protégé who later in the decade directed Innerspace and Matinee. Plot-wise this film is very important in that it’s a great example of the ’80s habit of fusing genres. Many ’80s many horror films were unintentionally funny this one is attempting to be purposely funny and succeeding. It was also quite frightening mostly to young kids because the cute, little furry things mutate into nasty, putrid beasts.

Structurally, this film is very tight. In the opening scene where the father (Hoyt Axton) buys a mogwai we are given rules, a trait common to many fantasy films, they are ‘don’t get them wet, don’t feed them after midnight and they hate bright light.’ The breaking of these rules end up being our act breaks and/or plot points. The first act ends in one of the most clear-cut fashions I’ve ever seen. Gizmo, the mogwai, gets water spilled on him in the 25th minute of the film and we see his progeny pop right out of him.

What a lot of people fail to notice is that there was actually a new creature invented for this film under the guise of an old myth. Gremlins were supposedly little monsters placed in machinery during World War II by the Germans. This creature comes from China according to this tale. It also allows for slight social commentary when Mr. Futterman complains about foreign cars and also while drunk he professes to believe in Gremlins in the classic sense. In the 1980s foreign cars truly bothered people enough such that the phrase ‘Buy American,’ was coined. 

Gremlins (1984, Warner Bros.)

The Spielberg School was always very big on ‘in-jokes,’ which can be readily apparent to the audience but are often missed (i.e. Rockin’ Ricky Rialto has the same billboard lettering as, and similar artwork to, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gizmo hiding behind an E.T. doll). There is also a cameo by animation director Chuck Jones. 

The characters in this film are quickly established. We see Rand Peltzer, the father, haplessly trying to pedal his invention, Billy (Zach Galligan) signing a petition, Kate (Phoebe Cates) works at a bar for free and Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) refuses to give a family more time to pay their loan. This film is funny and fun-filled and allusions to classic cinema are also play an important part in this story there is a clip from It’s a Wonderful Life and the Gremlins watch Snow White and in a hysterical turn they love it. There’s also mimicry of a popular film at the time Flashdance, and it’s great. The whole second half of this film is a wonderful mix of the hysterical and the creepy and sometimes both. Mrs. Deagle is thrown from her Stairmaster out the window to die in the snow. This shouldn’t be funny but it is. Then on the gross-out side we see a Gremlin melting in the sunlight. We also have the music of Jerry Goldsmith in this film who is wonderful composer who will turn out tunes just as hummable as Williams’s, but he specializes more in these fun types of films.

Gremlins was a big hit grossing $148 million on an $11 million dollar budget, and it’s easy to see why. It turns from a horror/comedy and there’s a lot of action thrown in. We laugh at what we shouldn’t. This is also one of the more tastefully done ‘horrors-on-Christmas’ films with a Gremlin getting chopped to bits while Burl Ives’s ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ is playing. I used to be deathly afraid of this film and it took me many years to gather up the courage to see it again. I’m very glad I did see it again though because, as strange as it sounds, this film is even whimsical in the way it handles its subject matter. As an adult, I don’t know who would be truly afraid of it but it does offer its fair share of the horror currency known as the “gross-out.” It’s so well handled in that regard I think we may be in suspense for a bit waiting for something else like it.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Music Videos (Part 9 of 17)

This is a recapitulation of a paper I did in college. This is part eight in the series to read other parts go here.

The music video of all visual art forms probably had the shortest period of time where it was a true art. If you look at music video now it becomes more and more rare to find one that attempts to portray some kind of narrative it has become what the artists originally feared merely a showcase for a song and an artist who looks like they should be an actor. The 1980s, however, offered some very unique and experimental ventures in this new medium.

MTV, which once upon a time stood for Music Television, launched in August of 1981 and it debuted with one of the better videos they ever aired called “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Artists debated the intrinsic value, or lack thereof, of music videos Hall & Oates were opposed to them and Madonna was in favor of them citing that musicians when on stage acted and this was just a different medium. Fitting that she would make such a statement because Madonna was a pioneer of the video every bit as much as Michael Jackson.

If pressed to find an end for the music video as an art I’d point to Milli Vanilli’s efforts in 1989. They were two dancers who were hired by a record company to lip-sync their way to fame. They won a few Grammies and were found out in 1990. After that point the packaging was no longer hidden and videos became less and less about anything but putting visuals to a new single. But the music video was already a staple and here’s how it came about.

Experiments like David Bowie’s “China Girl” soon became more refined, and even cinematic, like Madonna’s homage to Marilyn Monroe in “Material Girl.” There was the irreverence of The Cars in “You Might Think” and then there were masterworks in the genre as well. One of the best videos of the 80s is undoubtedly Billy Joel’s “Pressure” it’s a visual romp, with images that add to the despair and, well, pressure of the lyrics, nothing is really explained by the lyrics and the images don’t mimic the song. It’s truly great. Billy Joel also managed to cram all of Americana since the 1950s in a three minute video for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” it is such a kaleidoscopic approach to a song which is literally going over world events while we get the portrait of a household changing while the world around it burns down.

Thriller (1983, Epic Records)

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is probably the most important video in music history. It was treated and packaged like a film. Jackson got John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) to direct it and there was even a making of special. Nearly all of Michael Jackson’s other videos are better but this is the one that set the stage for how he approached them. It is labels and artists merely only looking at his videos as singing and dancing numbers that have bred a lack of originality and the pathetic state of the music video today. No one has to given as much thought to narrative and production since and are only concerned in the superficial most of the time, unlike Jackson.

Madonna, meanwhile, love her or hate her, has always been doing something different. In the controversial “Like a Prayer,” she falls in love with a modern day martyr who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. In “Open Your Heart,” she’s a stripper who becomes a boy’s obsession, in “Express Yourself” she leads a revolt in a video that was based on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, in two videos shot in black and white “Vogue” and “Oh Father” she takes two different approaches celebrating sensuality in one and lamenting a death in another.

If and when another media savvy and quality performer comes about the music video may be revived. It is still an art form with a great deal of potential to entertain because by its very nature it combines two of the most powerful elements in entertainment: music and the motion picture. The music video is for the most part a marketing tool, but every once and a while it does spasm and let a bit of art come out.