Saturday, July 11, 2020

just a yarn, spinning for our entertainment

John Hughes is involved, you know it’s going to be good on some level.


Still, my obligatory ruining... or rather a quick quote from Hal Hinson, Washington Post, 27 June 1988:
The gags that spring out of this situation were dreamed up by John Hughes, who wrote the script and acts as the film's executive producer, and they're all lame variations on the theme of nightmare vacations. It's hard to imagine how this theme could have been executed with less invention.
Really, the main weakness of the film is not the gags--they're basic but executed well--but the disconnected structure. The raccoons, really. It feels like something tacked on when the script was too short. And then there's teen romance that never matters to the rest of the film; it just is. It's cute, but it's separate.

Anyway, unlike my usual habit of writing this blog during the film, the film is over as I write now around a few scattered notes.

Like this early conversation that is our first big moment between Chet (John Candy) and Roman (Dan Aykroyd), sitting out on the deck looking at the lake:
Chet: Look around you, Roman, for God's sakes, this is beautiful country. Take a good look. 
Roman: I'll tell you what I see, if you want to know. 
Chet: Yeah, I'm curious. 
Roman: The underdeveloped resources of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, a consortium exploiting over a billion dollars in forest products. I see a paper mill and a mining operation, a green belt between lakeside condos and a waste management facility focusing on the newest rage in waste--medical refuse. Infected bandages, body parts, IV tubing, syringes, fluid, blood, radioactive waste--all contained, sunken in the lake and sealed for centuries. I ask you, what do you see? 
Chet: I just see... see trees. 
Roman: No one ever accused you of having a grand vision. While the ambitious scramble for wealth and power, the Chets of the world can lay back and casually stroll along life's path.
Roman shows up in his fancy car, barbecued lobster tails, rents a jet boat to skim across the waves instead of relaxing on a pontoon boat. And, having recently gone kayaking in a lake in Utah, I’d say take the pontoon boat, but Roman’s like a child—and as a child I loved the speed boat we might rent like when we were at Lake of the Ozarks. Now, though, I’m older, and slowing down can be great.

Like this blog is about to get.., well, maybe not slower but a little out of order...

See, this movie life, childhood fixture list was movies that we watched often because we had them on video. Started with 1968’s Blackbeard’s Ghost, and now it is 20 years later and I am 12 years old, loving these 80s comedies at the time, but some don’t hold up as well all these years later.

Some do.

Beyond the fixtures on VHS, there were plenty of 80s films they left a mark on me. Many have already come up in this blog under different circumstances—action films, romantic comedies, teen films, or what have you. What I have left in this childhood deconstruction is a few movies that should have been on the list but I missed them, a few that wouldn’t qualify for the list because we didn’t have them on video but I loved them, at least one that Sarah suggested, and the last few from the tail end of the list, drifting forward from 1988. The list dwindles quickly, though, because moving forward we get to the point where I start buying some movies for myself, the time where I had my own tv in my room, had a computer. And, going into the 90s instead of just watching the same old video tapes with the family, I started watching more movies by myself, or just me and a couple of my sisters renting something or other from Now Playing or Blockbuster. Among my VHS collection I bought things like the Friday the 13th franchise films, because my family didn't have those. We were a Halloween family.

And, I had my pre-DVR setup of two cable boxes and three VCRs because through the 90s (especially after '93) I was recording most of the television I watched, plus copying movie after movie off cable. And, somewhere in the mid-90s I started keeping track of movies I saw... No, that isn't right. I started writing down movies I watched in the mid-90s but keeping track kinda started earlier, I think--1992 maybe. When I got my first copy of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide and proceeded to methodically go through and highlight every film I had seen. When another edition came out the next year, I got that one and did it again. And, the next year, and the next. At some point, I switched over from Maltin to the Golden Retriever Movie Guide. And at some point I stopped buying each new edition, but I kept highlighting. Flash forward and I've got a list on IMDb that I'm still updating, and a more complete list on Letterboxd of the movies I've seen and I note each time I watch a film because I think I can't help it. Movies is life. Life is movies.

And, here at the Groundhog Day Project, this deconstruction of my childhood experience with movies only has a handful of films left. And then, well, who knows?

Meanwhile, classic third act in The Great Outdoors, as personal issues get solved and a storm rolls in to pull everybody together and endanger a few lives.

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