Kids these days are missing a big part of shared experience: commercials. When we were growing up, there was no DVR. We had VCRs, sure, and fast forwarded through commercials if we taped something, but we rarely taped anything. We watched everything when it aired, and we only missed commercials to get food or take a leak. So there are commercials that are simply part of the DNA of the people who watched them over and over and over. Here are a few that come to mind.
Note: you’ll notice that some (most?) are regional. I’m sure they ran on local affiliate and independent stations at cut rates, during reruns of whatever syndicated show my brothers and I were watching for the millionth time.1
Adventureland is not what I expected. Granted, my expectations were set solely by the movie poster. From that I gathered:
It takes place in the ’80s at an amusement park.
The stars are unknown (to me), but supporting cast includes Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, and Ryan Reynolds.
It’s from the director of Superbad
You’re thinking ’80s movie parody, right? Maybe Wet Hot American Summer? Or perhaps an Apatow-ian version of One Crazy Summer, The Great Outdoors, or Meatballs.
It’s actually much, much smarter than that. It’s not so much a comedy as a coming of age story. There are laughs, for sure. Some big ones, even, but most of it is from subtle character commentary and reactions.
It utilizes a quintessential ’80s movie theme, however: a smart, young everyman who’s not confident with girls meets a cute, experienced, down to earth girl with problems at home. It’s more complicated than that, of course, and more realized than any comedy would portray.
However, the biggest differentiator from teen comedies is that these aren’t teens. We’re used to characters who have just graduated high school or are finishing senior year. But Adventureland‘s main character has just graduated college, and all the other characters are clearly over 21. Like in real life, this significantly changes the dynamics. It’s a refreshing change that makes it very easy for me to recommend this movie to adults. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I was a huge fan of Robin Williams due to Mork & Mindy, which was in its third season when the movie premiered. In addition to the fun and wacky antics the trailer showed, I was especially intrigued because it was rated R – apparently for something involving sex. I really wanted to see this movie. Of course, there was no way my parents would let me watch it.
Tonight, 26 years later, I finally watched it. I’m sure I had many opportunities to do so in between, but something kept me from it. I think I knew it couldn’t live up to the hype my 9 year old brain had generated. Even though I tried to lower my expectations, I was disappointed. It’s based on a John Irving novel that was a major best seller at the time, and after reading some comments by those who’ve seen/read both (including Ebert’s review), it lost a bit in the translation and didn’t add anything to make up for it. It’s less fun and sexy and more slow and tragic than I could have ever imagined from watching the trailer. Not bad, per se, but not something I’d recommend to anyone who hasn’t read the book.
Not long after being denied Garp, I was shooed out of the room during a bestial orgy scene in The Howling. I remember pouting like crazy. Of course, I was allowed to watch the rest of the film, including a scene where a werewolf, in human form, is shot in the forehead, then reaches into the bullet hole and pulls out some brain whilst spouting the line, “Let me give you a piece of my mind.” Violence? No problem.
Other sexually charged films I was desperately curious about (and which still remain on my yet-to-see list) are Cat People (the 1982 remake) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (which I’ve begun reading). I distinctly remember passing the latter in the video store again and again, never having the guts to attempt a covert rental. The remarkable thing – other than the early 80’s being a big era for such films – is that these are films many adults wouldn’t fully comprehend (or at least only superficially). I imagine there were a few 9 year olds in 2001 maddeningly curious about Mulholland Drive, a film I’m still not sure I get. Perhaps it’s best that I waited…