Wednesday, June 1, 2005

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No one trashes guido the killer pimp on my watch!!!

What could David Adesnik be thinking?:

[I]n case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't.

Any movie with the line, "Joel, get off the babysitter" deserves better treatment than that. Heresy, I say!! Heresy!!

On a slightly more serious note -- I haven't seen the movie in some years, but my memory is that it's quite a good flick. The interesting question is whether this is true because I first saw the movie when I was roughly the protagonist's age. It's possible -- not probable, but possible -- that I'm viewing this film through rose-colored glasses. There are movies that occupy a more prominent place in our personal pantheons because of when we see them, and the good memories we associate with that time. There are "generational" movies that are valued because they click on some level with one's entire peer group -- The Shawshank Redemption for Generation Y or Rebel Without A Cause for baby-boomers, for example.

Readers are encouraged to debate the merits of Risky Business, or to confess the movies that they adore but recognize may not be as good as they originally thought. Oh. and this seems as good a time as any to link to Time's "All-Time 100 Movies."

UPDATE: Hey, apparently this concern of mine has a name -- the Tron effect.

posted by Dan on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM


First, _Risky Business_ isn't as good as you thought it was when you first saw it at age 17. Or at least that's the consensus of myself and others in my demographic I've talked to. That said, it actually still has quite a bit going for it, and doesn't deserve to be avoided.

Positive points:

1) It's a really quite fair and balanced examination of the adolescent male mind. Too often, adolescent males are depicted as either raging libidos, braggarts, or fearful pensive loners. There's reality behind all of those stereotypes, but not much interest characters who are simple unidimensional examplars of them. In _Risky Business_, the protagonist was all of those, and more. The supporting characters also showed this range, even if there wasn't much more to them. That's probably a large part of the attraction of the movie to 17-year old males. It's about the only person like them on screen who isn't a cartoon.

2)The representation and use of social class is far beyond what Hollywood is usually capable of. In particular, it examines the issues in context rather than in isolation, it doesn't grant cheap moral superiority to any given class, and it doesn't hit you like a sledgehammer.

3)There's some very nice camera work, and exceptional use of music.

4)Your mileage may vary, but Rebecca DeMornay was quite hot, and the Cruise-DeMornay interaction surprisingly and deftly erotic.

Negative points

1) Tom Cruise has not aged well, and his later work will color your view of _Risky Business_.

2) Other than DeMornay, all of the adults in the movie really are cartoons.

posted by: dave on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

I'll bet you could guess people's age extremely accurately based on the movie that comes to their mind when this question is asked.

For me: The Breakfast Club. I'm afraid to see it again. I had no idea there were people who felt this way about The Shawshank Redemption.

posted by: J. Ellenberg on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

Shawshank Redemption is regularly in pop top 10 lists for movies ever made! It's a good movie, but top 10? I too would like to understand its popularity.

posted by: Mrs. Davis on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

We can all learn a little from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

posted by: Jeremy on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

I would argue that "Red Dawn" is that movie for many people (many who became red state conservatives.) I saw it a couple of times when I was a kid and missed out on the many showings on cable between then (1985) and now, until I bought it on VHS.

It's stiff and has many awkward, high school play moments. But it's really, really good, in a lousy sort of way: "And we have a few messages for those out there in Free America: The chair is against the wall. The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache. John has a long mustache."

posted by: Klug on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

Risky Business is entertaining, but predictable. I'd have no problem watching it again, but I also think that my life won't suffer if I never see it again.

posted by: Dave on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

The Breakfast Club. I'm afraid to see it again

I've tried. Breakfast Club stands out in this regard for me-- it's the generationally-important movie that I actually can't bear to sit through again, haven't been able to for a long time, partly because I thought it was so wonderful and important and meaningful when I was 13, and I can't bear to have the memory of being that emotionally-goofy and -overwrought teenager brought too close to the surface. By contrast, I can happily rewatch Say Anything, which was the end of my particular era of teen-angst movies (an era that Breakfast Club began).

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

Last year I watched a whole raft of films by the Taiwanese filmmaker, Hou Hsou Hsien, all from the early '80's and all had at least one teenage boy who was desperate to get high marks on his exams to avoid military service. In the middle of all these films I watched 'Risky Business', a representative of the American teen-sex comedies of the early '80's and the only one I can recall that centers largely around an American middle class kid's obsession with getting high marks on his exams.

The cultural differences are pretty stunning. In 'Risky Business' the car chase scene is telling: he knows how to drive this car because he expects that he will always have one with a beautiful girl by his side--it's the life he's already used to and he's not even out of high school. Whereas in the Taiwanese films its a matter of whether these boys get the life they want or the life they get stuck with.

What I'm saying is perhaps to properly appreciate 'Risky Business', see it from a wildly different perspective. Watch it as a double feature with films like 'Boys from FengKui' or 'Time to Live, Time to Die' or 'Dust in the Wind', all films from the same time period from Taiwan. Incidentally I totally dug all the Hou films and 'Risky Business' as well, a solid American comedy from the early '80's. ('Princeton could use a guy like Joel.')

(Interestingly enough I also watched 'All the Right Moves' during a long spell of watching only Italian Neo-Realism. Another time perhaps.)

posted by: spliff on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

Incidentally, there was a comment above about how Cruise's later work will cloud your judgement of this film. I would suggest noting how his failures at just try to get a little action is strangely similar to 'Eyes Wide Shut', which can properly be seen as the same character 20 years later. Just a thought.

posted by: spliff on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

One of my big things in movies is whether they create a world that could exist -- not one that does or did exist, necessarily, but at least one that does not radically contradict things we know to be true.

Shawshank was marked down significantly for me, for example, because it was supposed to show a state prison in Maine and featured no character with anything remotely like a New England accent. No Way Out, an otherwise nifty Kevin Costner thriller from the mid-80s, lost major points with me when it showed Costner's character running into a Washington Metro stop in Georgetown -- where, as anyone who has ever lived in Washington knows, Metro does not run. It still bothers me that the letters of transit in Casablanca were supposed to be signed by General de Gaulle. And I don't know how many movies and television shows I've seen that depict Congressmen and other public officials working out of vast, uncluttered offices complete with polished marble surfaces and chandeliers. Obviously the reason for this is that opulent-looking sets are cheaper than actors and extras, but it still looks to silly not to undermine whatever dramatic thrust the movie is going for.

By contrast movies that convincingly create a world go over very well with me whether their plot or narrative are brilliant or not. The first two Godfather movies, obviously, but also a film like The Sting, Chariots of Fire or Eastwood's best film, Unforgiven all fall into this group. Even science fiction movies that take the time to acknowledge that not everyone in the universe speaks English get extra credit.

But that's just me. I'm not claiming to be representative of popular or critical tastes at all. As for Risky Business, I think I saw it once and pegged it as a fantasy coming-of-age movie -- along with musicals and "invincible villain" flicks one of my least favorite genres. On the other hand I thought the dialog and plot of The Naked Gun perfectly plausible. Things like that really do happen in California all the time.

posted by: Zathras on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

The oldest boomers were only nine years old when "Rebel Without a Cause" came out. I don't think it's their movie. Maybe "Don't Knock the Rock"?

posted by: Bob McHenry on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

I loathed and avoided 'teen movies' even when I was a teen, though Risky Business was a rare exception. As I recall, it being over half a lifetime ago (gulp!), I never felt the slightest sense of identification or familiarity with any of the characters in it, though I did find the 'babysitter,' 'killer pimp,' and 'u-boat commander' lines hilarious. That disconnect might be because I'm neither male nor rich, but I'm not small-town, either, and I could relate to the teens in Red Dawn. Maybe that was because they were struggling to accomplish something big and worthwhile, not just get out of a hole largely of their own making.
Or maybe I'm just weird. It could be that, too. ;)

posted by: Achillea on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

I think the same sort of thing can be said about the music one listens to at a particular age. Objectively, I know that Duran Duran doesn't match up with The Beattles or Led Zeppelin (not to mention Messiaen, Ligeti, John Adams and other contemporary classical composers that are my present taste), but I still crank up the volume when they make an appearance on some 80's radio show.

posted by: conlon on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

Let me throw a few more generation Y favorites in there: Office Space, Swingers, and especially, The Big Lebowski.

And don't forget Rounders, especially given its role in the current poker craze.

posted by: schauf on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

I was always partial to Time Bandits, but maybe that's too revealing.

posted by: wjc3 on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

WHOA! Boomers' early years have apparently disappeared into the mists of the generic "long ago." Dean died in '55, when most of us were still counting our ages out in single digits, if not our actual fingers. A lot of us were also late bloomer boomers, which is why our two quintessential flicks are probably (note the telling contrast) Rocky Horror Picture Show and Big Chill. And folks wonder why we're a divided nation now?

posted by: JM Hanes on 06.01.05 at 11:05 AM [permalink]

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