When Harry Met Sally, He Was a Jackass. Is This the Modern Love Story?


For my last 80s movie of the semester, I wanted to watch something a bit sentimental. After searching for a bit, I stumbled upon When Harry Met Sally.

 

Potato, potato, tomato, tomato…

 

The Romantic Comedy fit the bill I’d say, but my favorite part of the movie had nothing to do with Harry or Sally. In fact, I really hated Harry—he’s neurotic, rude, and ugly in my opinion. And, even though Sally insisted that she hated Harry too when he professed his love to her for the first time on New Years, her smile betrays her perverted attraction to this crazy man. I can’t say that I am attracted to jerks just because they know what kind of dressing I like on my salad.

Really? Look at that face.


Perhaps he is characterized in this way to deconstruct the idealistic nature of love, and the well-mannered, handsome prince charming. But life is brutal enough, why can’t we have another fairy tale love story? Market saturation?

They just feel so good…almost as good as Sally’s boisterous simulated orgasm in the café—but both fairy tales and Sally’s orgasm are glaringly artificial. The fake orgasm, one of the most famous scenes of the film, could be a direct mockery of idealistic modern romance because real love can’t exist in an idealistic vacuum. Harry and Sally do not follow the traditional rules of love. This=fake o. That’s depressing.

I find it interesting that Harry consistently uses a black phone and Sally uses a white phone, no matter where they are.

My hands-down favorite part of this movie was the recurring shot of older couples recalling how they fell in love. I could have watched a whole movie of them, paying attention to their body language, clothing, and speech patterns to reveal the intricate dynamics of affection in only 30 seconds.

 

The opening scene is of an old couple, and then at least 4 others present their story at regular intervals throughout Sally and Harry’s journey. Most of the stories—like the “high school sweethearts” who decided to get married 34 years later, the gentleman who experienced an ungodly number of divorces in a month before meeting his current wife at a funeral, the couple who spoke over each other but didn’t seem to mind, and the old Chinese couple who didn’t meet until their wedding day—were a bit complicated. But they were all seemingly happy—the imperfections made them irresistibly cute, almost more so than a love story that unfolded in a predictable way.

When Harry Met Sally suggests that imperfect love is the norm. I agree with that claim. However, I can’t agree with the claim that difficult, complicated, thorny love is cuter somehow more endearing than simple love.

Wasted Youth in Fast Times at Ridgemont High

After watching the clip of Fast Times at Ridgemont High in class, I decided that I’d have to give this 80s movie a go. It looked like fun—and for the most part it was. I had just finished watching the tumultuous 1st episode of the new season of Teen Mom 2, so I was in the mood for some high school drama.

The Ridgemont mall, central to the movie (the opening shot is repeated at the end of the film as a framing device), is a refreshing venue outside of the school scene. The film spends quite a bit of time in this commercialistic zoo of teenaged horn-dogs for good reason. The mall mirrors the constructed organization of school groups: a lonely movie-ticket clerk who yearns to work on the other “cooler” side of the mall, young flirty pizza girls, a lay-low ticket scalper with bad advice, and a stereo salesman stud.

Just wondering…in the 80s, was it common to play videogames shirtless in the mall? My dad said he didn’t remember…dubious.

I love the rampant misconceptions and insecurity in the film:
Stacy has concerns about being good in bed.
Linda’s response–“What? You either do it or you don’t”

Rat has concerns approaching a girl.
Damone’s response–“Move across the room. Don’t talk. Just use your face”

Want to learn more? Here’s Damone’s “5-point plan”

 

I love our “single, successful guy” Brad, who, on both occasions of uttering this line, is doing a task most would consider undignified—flipping burgers and cleaning profane graffiti off of the bathroom mirror.

Speaking of graffiti, it’s a popular mise-en scène element in film’s setting. In particular, “wasted youth,” appears in the background of Stacy’s first date, the night she looses her virginity. This term could be interpreted in multiple ways. Is it akin to Carpe Diem, a plea to savor your youth while you can? Or is it a disapproving judgment of wild, “fast” teenagers.

 

After Damone comes inside Stacy and then abruptly leaves her, I couldn’t help but love the next shot—the pizza girls aggressively hacking up a giant log of salami. Delicious.

Good lord, Mr. Hand reads grades out loud as he returns them to his students. How terrible! It does remind me though of my traumatic 8th grade algebra class where we were arranged by class average.

I HAD NO IDEA THAT WUS=WIMP+PUSSY. If that’s true, then thanks Fast Times for the important information.

Clue: The Movie

Six guests are invited to a Gothic mansion in New England. The year is 1954. They are assigned aliases and introduced to each other. Mr. Body, the host of the party, is blackmailing the guests and has gathered them together. They discover that they are all involved with illegal or “un-American” activities. The guests receive weapons. Let the game begin!

I loved the board game version, so I couldn’t help but be interested in the film version of Clue. I probably should have watched some other 80s classic, but I didn’t care—I made the right call. Well, actually, I guessed the wrong murdered in the end. But no matter—the process was entertaining. Who knew murder could be so fun.

First of all, the movie isn’t scary. Even a horror lightweight could handle this one. I’ll admit though, each time someone turns the lights out, a tiny bit of fear dilated in my chest. It’s not really supposed to be scary. The emphasis is on postmortem investigation—very detached, as if there were no current danger. It’s a fascinating way to address murder. They were hopeless, with an external locus of control.

The popular conception of homosexuality has changed drastically since this film. All of the guests are involved with some sort of illegal, sexual, or perverted activity. But when Mr. Green stands up and admits his sexual preference, the guests look just as disgusted as when the butler reveals that Professor Plum takes advantage of his psychotic patients. Apparently Mr. Green would loose his job with the government if he was discovered. But no matter, at the very end, Mr. Green ends up revealing himself as a plant or “spy” at the party—a representative of the government and saves the day. The audience assumes that he is not gay and cheers his efforts. Hmmm…

At first, I rolled my eyes at the cheesy one-liners:

After a lengthy explanation, the butler says, “To make a long story short…”
“TOO LATE,” the guests yell in unison.

And the melodramatic acting:
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” Ms. Peacock scream.

It sounds even worse than it looks.

But, once acquainted with the theatrical style of the movie, it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch the guests frantically run about the mansion.

For the theatrical release of Clue, the movie was shown with one of three different endings—different theaters received different endings for the film. It did poorly in the box office, but the home video has all three versions. I would certainly be disappointed without all three.

Two Sides of Top Gun: Death of the Family and Awkward Habits

It is exhilarating to finally watch a film that people deem essential to a complete cultural existence in the United States. For some reason, people were invariably flabbergasted when I admitted I had never watched the film. So, as a dutiful American, I soaked up everything I could. What I found is fascinating.

Very early in the film, a pilot with the call name “Cougar” almost kills himself and his copilot when a picture of his wife and child paralyzes him–the photo gyrates violently and is blood red.

Iceman, a highly skilled pilot, insults Goose by calling him “Mother Goose” when they first meet.  When Goose dies, Mavericks only “family,” Maverick suffers and develops a brief complex towards engaging with an enemy.

Family is weakness, family is bad, family leads to suffering.

The success and skill of the two best pilots, Iceman and Maverick, seems to be based on their lack of family. They are free to fly, so to speak. Their families aren’t weighing them down.

On another note entirely, WHY DO THEY INSIST ON SINGING BADLY IN PUBLIC?

This happens a number of times, but the following two examples are the most glaring. I was shocked at the deluge of testosterone in the bar when the chorus of men belts, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” at Charlie. Impromptu? I think not. Regardless, Charlie seems to be pleased with the display.

Another musical scene takes place in another bar during the day with Goose, his family, Charlie, and Maverick. They joyfully yell, “Great Balls of Fire” at each other.

I wasn’t exactly sure about the song titles, so I was about to look them up on the internet. Then I had an idea:

“Hey Dad!”

“What?”

“What song did those guys all sing in the bar scene to the girl in Top Gun?”

“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” he said. He began to sing, “Loovin Feeelin.”

A few minutes later…

“Hey Mom!” I wanted to give her a chance too.

“Yeah?”

“What song did Goose and Maverick sing with the piano?”

“Great Balls of Fire” she said.

Then my dad said to me, “Your mother wanted to have Tom Cruise’s babies.” How many times have you seen Top Gun? Like 20?”

My mom scoffed.

I am still laughing.

 

On yet another note, WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS NIBBLING ON SOMETHING?

It’s never a substantial chew, just a slight mouth movement that I can’t help but conclude that Tony Scott thought this made them look cool or relaxed or something. Well, it was distracting to me, especially when they aren’t really eating something, or they’ve chewed something into cud, or they stop nibbling mid-sentence and then never resume. Maybe they are avid snackers and they carry small Ziplocs of goldfish everywhere. Strange.

They nibble—particularly when Charlie and Maverick converse. Look for it.

I liked Top Gun. I want a call name. I bet there’s a Top Gun name generator somewhere.

 

Thumbs up!

 

Why Children of the Corn Isn’t as Scary Now

Steven King’s Children of the Corn, directed by Fritz Kiersch, is a must-see cult classic. As a horror movie fan, I appreciate the motifs that make this film memorable. To start, the ominous Gregorian chanting (performed by children of course) accompanies most of the movie and adds suspense in preparation for gory ritual and murder. There are no words, just eerie, sustained “Ah-ing” that sears itself into the minds of the audience.

One only needs to “Ahh” at a fellow viewer later in the day to increase their heart rate and make them moderately uncomfortable around children.

Another contributor to Children of the Corn’s classic status is the crayon drawings. Sarah, a young child that disagrees with the leader’s ways, draws bloody, gruesome pictures of the future. She predicts the coming of the “outsiders,” Burt and Vicky, and illustrates the gory rituals associated with a perverted religion that believes any person over 18 should die.

The children never use a gun to kill. Poison, scythes, and knives are the only offensive weapons in use during the film. Defensively, they defame public property with dried up corn stalks to create a hostile environment and they immobilize Burt’s car, disabling him from fleeing the town—not that he would be smart enough (despite being a doctor) to make that decision.

The setting lends to the perverseness of this ordeal. Gatlin represents small-town America. Traditionally, small-towns are associated with community, safety, and innocence. This rural virtue, teamed up with the purity of children makes the transition to home of cultic murderous children a disturbing one.

BUT, DESPITE ALL OF THESE SUPERBLY SCARY THINGS…the modern viewer is left unfazed.

WHY?

1)   The children of the corn are a misguided group that follows the bible verse, “and a child shall lead them.” Creepy, but at least they have a guiding principle.

Now, children just want to fuck people up for fun.

Since Children of the Corn, kids have been heavily recycled as lone murderers, ghosts, and Satanic symbols. More recent movies like Orphan (2009) and Insidious (2010) take psychotic children to the next level—they are sexual, supernaturally powerful, torture people for enjoyment, and are completely unpredictable. Children of the Corn is still perverted, but less so in comparison to the latest creepy kiddos. Scary children are scary, but less so because the standard of perversion has risen.

2)   Plus, the ending computer graphics and tunneling dirt ball are a bit cheesy now. The more real supernatural is, the scarier it is. What modern viewer could resist giggling at the red and black amoeba that consumes Isaac?

Children of the Corn paved the way for the coming generations of psychotic younglings and realistic computer graphics of supernatural power. That is why it’s both a classic and a shadow behind modern horror. The six sequels attest to this.