1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!

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1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!

The Nightmare: Blue Language and the Shadow Man, an interview with an Interviewee

The Nightmare 6.15

“There’s nothing we can do when it chooses to visit us, but to breathe, keep our eyes open, and wait for morning.”
—Kate Angus

It’s not often that one of your dearest friends appears in a feature documentary. In fact, the closest I’ve come to that is when a high school classmate, was interviewed on our local TV station when they did a special feature on bulimia. We naturally celebrated her brief moment in the local spotlight as we focused more on the fact that she was on TV than on her brave confession on her ordeal with bulimia.

 It wasn’t long ago that my friend, Kate Angus texted me that she was going to appear in some documentary about sleep paralysis. We soon forgot about it, then months later, she texted me “they’re coming over to shoot the documentary at my apartment—OMG, I’ve spent the whole day cleaning!” “Who is the director,” I asked. “Rodney Ascher. He did some documentary a year ago that got good reviews.” I replied, “That’s awesome!” It was then that I took this thing more seriously. However, knowing that Asher is the director of Room 237, I thought, God I hope he doesn’t make her look like a nut case! Over the following months, I kept my thoughts and fears to myself, and did as any good friend would, telling Kate that she would be fine and most importantly—if she did come off a little crazy—I was certain she would, at least, look pretty.

In Rodney Ascher’s 2011 documentary Room 237, he assembles a collection of slightly off (I’m being kind) interviewees who discuss their various conspiracy theories around the film The Shining. This time, in The Nightmare he assembles a collection of similarly likable if not awkward interviews where the victims of a disorder known as sleep paralysis retell their worst nightmares. The disorder, where a patient is stuck in a conscious, dream-like state while physically paralyzed, is accompanied with terrifying nightmares and the specific visit of a shadowy figure—sometimes sporting a Freddy Kruger like hat.

Kate was approached by Ascher, a confessed victim of the phenomenon himself, after he found an article in The Toast that she wrote in 2014 titled “The Dark Thing Beside You: Night Hags and Sleep Paralysis,” where she recounts her own experiences related to sleep paralysis.

The Nightmare opens this weekend in theaters and on VOD. Of course I had to take advantage of my friend’s “fifteen minutes,” and so we met at a crowded East Village wine bar for drinks, an interview, and a chance for me to go on the record by saying, “Kate, I’m so relieved that you don’t look or sound crazy.”   —John David West

“The word nightmare originates from sleep paralysis and its accompanying hallucinations. The Anglo-Saxons believed in a ghastly nocturnal visitor known as the mare (from the Old Norse mara); a night hag who would sit on sleepers’ chests and strangle them.”Kate Angus

 West: How did Rodney Asher find you?

Angus: Somebody from his production team, emailed me, and said that Rodney was coming to NY to interview a couple people and would I want to be one of them.

West: Did you know what you were getting into?

Angus: I didn’t think about it. I googled him, and I saw that he had one documentary out (Room 237), which got good reviews—but which I did not actually watch. I didn’t do my due diligence.

West: [Laughs] Had you watched it, you might not have wanted to do the interview.

Angus: But I have so many friends making docs, so when I see them go through the long process—Marah Strauch (Sunshine Superman), and my friend Barak who has been working on a documentary about a band [Silver Apples] for a number of years. So, I’ve been watching two friends that I adore go through the lengthy process of making a doc, trying to get people to talk to them, so now I have this inherent and ingrained desire to help somebody making a doc. So, I was like, well he seems reputable, he got good reviews. Here’s a man making a documentary and I want to be helpful. I didn’t really think about it all that carefully. I’m currently in a stage where I’ll say yes to whatever—we live in an unpredictable world, it might be fun! So I said yes and I kind of forgot about it.

West: How did you prepare?

Angus: I didn’t. I forgot. Then a few days before they were due to interview me, they called. Then I freaked out. Because they were going to film in my apartment. So instead of watching his other movie, I freaked out about cleaning my apartment. I just didn’t think about the fact that this is a documentary and that anything I say can be in the movie.

West: So you didn’t do any prep for the interview?

Angus: What is there to prep, David? It’s my life. They were going to ask me about my experiences. My preparation was cleaning my apartment. Oh, and deciding what to wear and putting on some eyeliner before they came over.

West: Did you think about that fact that it might be a movie that’s released in theaters?

Angus: I didn’t really think about that. I didn’t realize how much trust I had given to them until well after the fact. Then I was, oh, god, what if I look like a crazy person in this sleep paralysis documentary—they could make me look like a lunatic.

West: I remember when you texted me that you had been asked to do the movie. It wasn’t until long after you agreed [to be in the film] that I did my own due diligence and realized that this was the same director of Room 237—a movie I very much enjoyed—and that the interviewees were a bit kooky. Some were really kooky. Did you worry how you might sound?

Angus: Not really, I didn’t think about it at the time. I wished that I had. When I teach I have a teaching filter, so I don’t swear that often. But I don’t generally use—[laughs] what they call blue language—in my teaching. If I had thought about it, I would’ve remembered not to swear. Because that’s what bothers me the most about being in this documentary is, “oh, no I swear so much! My mother will be appalled.” [laughs] It’s shameful. I use bad language. I’m a failure as a WASP. I’m a WASPY failure.

The-Nightmare-Poster-350x517West: But, Kate, you do swear in person.

Angus: But not on film, David.

West: They didn’t do any reenactment with your story.

Angus: No. Because I’m the most boring.

West: [laughs] Thank god!

Angus: I know.

West: Ascher didn’t interview any scientist or psychologist. You’re actually the closest thing to that.

Angus: I am the closest thing to a scientist or psychologist that they used and that’s not my normal hat. I’m glad I didn’t’t get a reenactment like the spiders, or the giant claw or the woman who had sex with her creature. I was glad that my sleep paralysis is so normal.

West: Is it stress related.

Angus: The last time I had it was when I saw a guy killed on the L train so yes.

West: When you in experiencing sleep paralysis are you aware that you’re in it?

Angus: Yes, I know it now. I mean the first time that it happened; I didn’t know what it was. I thought somebody broke into my building and they were going to rape and murder me. Then I looked up what I experienced on the Internet the next day and I found sleep paralysis. So I thought, “Oh, that’s what I have” and then ever since that first time, it wasn’t scary to me. It became sort of a metaphor, that’s how I rationalize it: in life, the few times I’ve had it have happened during times where I was figuratively paralyzed—during a stretch after grad school when I couldn’t find a job or when I saw someone die and couldn’t help them. Awake, I couldn’t change the external circumstances around me, so in sleep, I had sleep paralysis.

West: That’s why you didn’t get a reenactment! Yours wasn’t horrifying to you or the viewer.

Angus: Yeah, it was weirdly comforting; it was like, “Hey, there! Hi, Sleep Paralysis.”

 “Only New Guinea legend offers sleep paralysis not as thing to be feared, but rather as something potentially beautiful.” –Kate Angus

West: You touched upon the similar sleep paralysis shadows appear in different cultures.

Angus: Yeah, I really like the one [Asher] featured from New Guinea, tribe that believe paralysis comes from sacred trees, they need to feed on human essence to keep going, but they’re polite so they don’t want to do it while you’re awake, so they paralyze you while you’re asleep and feed on you then. But, sometimes you wake up in the middle [of a feeding] and that’s why you have sleep paralysis.

West: It’s a nice spin on it. But of the shadowy figures are terrifying to the interviewees.

Angus: I’m such an optimist about the world, so naturally I see a weird dark figure and I think “why wouldn’t it be nice?”

West: Hm? I’m from the Midwest too and I have to say that I don’t think I would react the same way. I mean some of the interviewees had really dramatic, life changing, reactions to their shadow figures. One girl turned to Christianity.

Angus: Yeah, well, OK, this is me speculating—I don’t know these people—and it’s probably unfair of me to speculate but I also wonder if they’ve had additional trauma in their lives.

West: Most people have some horrors in their past.

Angus: True, yes, everyone has something in the past that affects them and it can cause trauma, but my life was really – not – that – bad. I don’t mean to impose. I mean it not fair of me to put a narrative on other people.

West: The people in Room 237 appear a bit more crazy and weird than they are in this movie.

Angus: HOW?

West: They are, well with their wild—although entertaining, conspiracy theories and odd obsessions on [Kubrick’s] The Shining.

Angus: I believe Rodney interviewed a lot of people, and I’m sure there were a fair amount of people with boring stories like mine that didn’t make it into the film. But, since I’m a teacher, I’m pretty good at presenting boring material in an entertaining manner. It’s what I’m paid to do, with my meager little teaching salary.

West: But you didn’t embellish your story or experience

Angus: No, no, no, in fact it’s pretty boring, so clearly not.

West: Did your shadow figure wear a hat?

Angus: No. He didn’t have a hat. He was like Death from the Seventh Seal, but he didn’t have a face—or a hood, just that shape. It didn’t really have arms.

West: Oh my god. That’s scary. Wait, what makes him masculine?

Angus: It didn’t feel especially gendered but I guess it was masculine.

West: But what makes it masculine?

Angus: I don’t know. Maybe there’s more appeal in the masculine, maybe I have a patriarchy default setting.

West: Actually a lot of the [interviewees] saw masculine figures. There didn’t seem to be any women shadows.

Angus: Well, how do you know? I mean they weren’t chanting “I’m a man, I’m a man!” Or holding up a Playboy centerfold.

West: [laughs] They weren’t shadow lady figures with big racks either.

Angus: I’m a little offended by that. Even in the shadow world, you’re imposing cultural norms of beauty on women, you monster.

Our server, Marianne arrived just in time to check on us. After some polite customer-server talk we learned that Marianne was a wine and spirits specialist and asked her to create a drink for us. Something with cardamom, yuzu and gin.

West: Would you ever appear as an interviewee in a doc again?

Angus: Yes.

Marianne brought our drinks especially created for us,  to which we toasted documentaries and shadow spirits.

West: Kate, what would you do differently?

Kate took a generous sip of her icy cocktail of yuzu, gin, orange juice, and ginger and cardamom bitters

Angus: I wouldn’t swear as much!

download (1)

 

Movie-Still Monday: Women in Film – Dorothy Arzner

 

merrily-we-go-to-hell-1932-001-00m-uvl-dorothy-arznerMoviefiedNYC celebrates Women’s History Month with a look at some of film’s great women. We are starting with director, Dorothy Arzner. Starting her career in the early days in Hollywood as a typist at Paramount Pictures, Arzner worked her way up through the ranks as a screenwriter and as a respected editor (Blood and Sandstaring Rudolph Valentino). She eventually moved into working as a feature director.

During the pre-code days before 1934, her films featured women who were always strong and free-spirited. These included Paramount’s first talkie, which starred Clara Bow, The Wild Party (1929), Sarah and Son(1930), and later at RKO, Christopher Strong (1933), which featured Katherine Hepburn—in her second movie—as a female aviator.

However, in 1943 Arzner stopped making feature films altogether. It’s still unknown why she stopped, perhaps a result of the strict Hays Code and Hollywood’s eventual return to more conservative, traditional gender roles that were popular following World War II. In her later years she taught screenwriting and directing at UCLA until she died in 1979.

We are grateful to historic women like Dorothy Arzner, whose groundbreaking work in Hollywood paved the way for future (well, we still have a long way to go) women directors.

—John David Wes

1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.
1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year! Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?
 
Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.
Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.


1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.
1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald
1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
 
In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!

—John David West

 

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

1. Ghostbusters

2. Paris, Texas

3. Amadeus

4. The Killing Fields

5. Once Upon a Time in America

6. Stop Making Sense

7.The Terminator

8. This Is Spinal Tap

9. Beverly Hills Cop

10. The Karate Kid


11. Sixteen Candles

12. Footloose



13. A Nightmare on Elm Street

14. Stranger Than Paradise

15. Purple Rain

16. Starman

17. Gremlins

18. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

19. The Muppets Take Manhattan

20. Police Academy

 

 

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Making Movies that Matter: Interview with director of Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia

Niharika Singh

I recently sat down to chat with director, Ashim Ahluwalia, whose first feature film, Miss Lovely, recently opened in New York City.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ahluwalia is not what I expected, as I anticipated meeting the next big Bollywood director.  He’s a director’s director, a down-to-earth guy, well-informed on cinema, totally aware of his field, and passionate about making movies that matter.  I approached the topic of Indian cinema (a subject new to me) in hopes of broadening my knowledge. After speaking with Ahluwalia, I walked away feeling much enlightened on the business of Indian cinema and the emergence of C-grade movies. My fears were confirmed that it’s hard everywhere for filmmakers who don’t want to just make films that are “instantaneously gratifying.” But—be it Hollywood or Bollywood—it’s good to know that there are directors out there like Ahluwalia who are committed to making movies that matter. 

West:  As I started doing my background research on this new “Bollywood” director, Ashim Ahluwalia, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he is not a Bollywood director, but rather a director who happens to be Indian, and a fine director of world cinema.

Ahluwalia: Thank you.

West:  You studied [film] here in the USA at Bard. How has studying in the USA informed or created conflict for you in making films in India?

Ahluwalia: Bard was a huge eye-opener for me. It’s a freaky school, even by American standards, and even by American narrative industry cinema. It comes from a very ’60s experimental film tradition, and the way they look at cinema is very different. So, as I was growing up, I was exposed mainly to Hollywood and Bollywood stuff. When I went to Bard, I was exposed to a lot of experimental stuff, world cinema, and a lot Asian cinema, which I had never seen.  And also a lot of Indian films from the ’50s and ’60s, which I had also never seen. So, it was suddenly a complete new world.  One of the things I took away from Bard was the fact that film is a language. It’s not something that you just take as [a] given. I think that that’s something that we don’t see so much of now. Because people sort of accept the genre that they work in, and there’s no questions about the language and the things that you can do with form. I think when you talk about contemporary Korean and Japanese cinema—they’re still doing that form. Popular film, studio films, will do some weird stuff, and you say “Wow, how do they get away with that?” I’m kind of fascinated and amazed by that way of making film. You know, necessarily flagging it off and making an art house film, which for me is as boring as doing a commercial film, but really this new way of thinking about cinema, like, collapsing into itself. I think Miss Lovely is a perfect example of me being very unencumbered in the Indian industry setup, That’s very satisfying, because that means there’s something new to do with film. You’re not retroactively trying to do something that’s already been done twenty years ago. So, that’s where I’m coming from. Bard got me really thinking about form and language and what you can really do with it, and slipping things [in]. How porn is so close to experimental film, and how horror is sometimes so close to sex. These lines that people keep very far apart from each other, but if you slip over them, things really happen that are interesting.

West: But within the film [Miss Lovely], they’re making movies that are marrying horror and soft porn.

Ahluwalia: Exactly! I think for me—you know in India we have a tradition—I think you have that here too—a tradition of the straight up commercial film, and then there’s art house films, and then there’s a big gap in between. Right? I think that what happened is that when I went back [to India], I discovered the C-grade space: the sort of illegal sex film, which had bits of stock footage in it, and had weird mismatched narrative: where an actor suddenly disappears, and is then suddenly replaced by another actor. I think this was actually the missing link for me, between these two spaces. And so, as a first feature, it’s not only an interesting subject, but it’s also defining a space for me.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

West: How was Miss Lovely received in India?

Ahluwalia: It’s been received well. I didn’t even expect it to open theatrically—it opened in 400 cinemas in India. The distributor said, “We can do this.” I said, “Are you sure you want to do this because it’s a really challenging film.” It [Miss Lovely] is really frustrating, because it gives you all the clues of a traditional genre movie, a thriller, and then it doesn’t deliver. It delivers something else. And they were like, “No, we really want to do this.”  So, what they did is quite interesting. They released it as an art house movie in the cities, and kind of a sexy film in small towns.

West: How interesting.

Ahluwalia:  It was really interesting. It was really well received.  Actually the week we opened, we were the most popular film. Which makes no sense whatsoever. It could also have to do with the fact that it has all this sexual-titillating content in a country which is very conservative. But the reviews were great.

 It was just staggering for me that people just got it. There were reviews from mainstream papers talking about how this film is all about its relationship to Bollywood, and its definition, vis-à-vis, having a dominant film industry that’s kind of a looming force that doesn’t let you make movies.

West:  So, this is an example of don’t underestimate your audience.

Ahluwalia:  Yeah! You know, I learn that every time. It’s so amazing. There will be the most intelligent cinephile who will be, like, “I don’t get it.” Then there will be some granny, “Oh, that was interesting how that happened.”  That makes me excited.  So, once you get into that whole thing that only the audience wants is a summer blockbuster, then it becomes difficult to make work.

West:  Do you think this creates more opportunities for other Indian filmmakers to make non-glittery [non-Bollywood] films?

Ahluwalia:  Yeah. It really helped that this film went to Cannes. Because, suddenly it was like, “Oh, there’s something worth looking at here [in India].”  And it was in Rotterdam and Toronto, which is rare for a first feature. Rotterdam is art house and quite rigorous and challenging. Toronto can be quite mainstream, but also very indie, so it has this weird mix. I think the fact that it had a kind of a stamp of approval that allowed for people to say, “Oh this isn’t a sleaze film.” [Otherwise,] I think that people would have just said, “Oh, this is a sleaze movie. Get rid of it.”

West:  The distributors, you mean?

Ahluwalia:  The distributors, everybody, would not have allowed for the film to circulate. It would have been killed as a weird oddity. And then maybe rediscovered some twenty years later.

West:  Are there other [Indian] directors who are making similar films or films about real people?

Ahluwalia:  There are, but not so formally radical. I think that the film allowed for non-histrionic acting; the film allowed for a weird space, where you have [a] mix of real people, documentary, and also a darker sort of film. Something that is radical with this film—in the Indian context—is how dark it is, and how it doesn’t ever fulfill that happy moment. Happiness with a tinge of sadness attached to it. I think that tone has never existed in Indian cinema. Because the characters are nuanced: the younger brother is submissive, yet he’s kind of conniving; and the older brother is horribly dominating, yet he’s kind of loyal. Things are not complete.

West:  They’re not cookie cutter characters.

Ahluwalia:  It doesn’t further along the Indian moral agenda: the family being a good thing. I think that can influence younger [Indian] filmmakers.  So, you see films with ambiguous characters, or more incomplete characters and more nuanced, and so, the realness from that aspect, not just the superficial realism from the handheld [documentary look].

West:  You mentioned documentaries. I understand that Miss Lovely started out as a documentary that you turned into a narrative film. How has documentary influenced your style and experience?

Ahluwalia:  Well, because pornography is illegal—just to put it in context—any kind of pornographic material is illegal; it will get you a minimum of three years in jail. It’s non-bailable.  So when you think about these movies, they’re not B-movies, which want to be real movies; they’re C-grade movies that are made for the excuse for these sex bits to be illegally interspersed. They get interspersed at the cinema level, and not through the censors. So these reels, in the ‘80s, used to be delivered on bicycle at night and get spliced into these movies. So you’d have a movie, which people would be waiting for the sex bit to appear.  I was fascinated by this. I spent a year and a half with these people. By the end, nobody wanted to be in the documentary. They were, like, “Why would I tell you on camera what I told you last night while [we] were drunk?”  Then, I realized how naïve I was. I guess, in a way, how westernized I was by not understanding that these people would hang out with me, but they would never let me make this documentary. Years later, what I did was take all the people and their stories—which were all real—and kind of patch them together and make the script of Miss Lovely. So there are elements of that documentary that worked back into the film. The movies that the two brothers make [in the film] are real C-grade movies. They’re not re-enacted. All that stuff and the sex bits were brought back into the film. So, it allowed room for my earlier life as an experimental filmmaker, using stock footage, reused footage, stuff that in a mainstream film, you’d never get away with.

West:  So, you learned a lot in the process of making the film.

Ahluwalia:  I’ve become, sort of weirdly, the archaeologist of this stuff and now, unfortunately, I have to say, I’m fucking tired of it—talking about C-grade films. Two years ago, nobody talked about this stuff. Before this film was made, this didn’t exist. It was kind of a vague subculture. This film comes out, and I thought that people in India were going to freak-out, because it’s quite wild, not just formally, but the sex stuff, and the way women are shown. Because women in Indian films are very submissive, or they’re vamps, and they die at the end. The funny thing is that it’s gone the other way. People are non-neurotically talking about subculture. Which is great, because it opened up this huge conversation. Everybody is writing a paper on C-grade cinema; everyone is doing a coffee-table book. It’s gone the other way a bit. And I’m kind of done. But I did it accidently, because I actually restored these films; I had to find them on film. I went into basements to find them, digging up movie negatives, getting them restored. As a result there’s a kind of a resurgence of interest. And now French DVD labels want to put out a series of Indian sex films.

West:  While watching Miss Lovely, it made me curious to see these [C-grade films]. The more [Miss Lovely] is shown, the more you’re going to entice people’s curiosity. I guess it’s really good timing, huh? Maybe two years ago you couldn’t have gotten it played?

Ahluwalia:  It could be.  It took me years to get this film financed, three to four years to make it. Then it went to Cannes in 2012, but then it didn’t get released [in] India until two months ago, when it was released in 400 cinemas. It was stuck in the censors for a year in India.  Now it’s being released in the States two years later. So it’s got this very weird, very slow movement, which is very unlike the normal path of a film. Usually, it’s at a festival; then two months later it opens, then DVD, VOD. [Miss Lovely] is so weird, because it has different lives and different ways of being perceived in different cultures. In India, the distributors put it out as an indie art house movie in the cities, and then as a sex film in small towns. So, I have the good fortune of my first feature [film] being in Cannes and in the sleaziest, fleapit cinemas in North India, in the middle of nowhere, which is bizarre. It’s just crazy!

West:  You said somewhere that you want to continue to make films that upset, bother, and leave the viewer thinking, why the hell did I watch that?, and then find themselves still thinking about it a week later.  As you continue to experience some success, is this something that you can maintain?

Ahluwalia:  I would love to do that. I would be disappointed if I made a film that was instantaneously gratifying, and then two weeks later there’s another [hit] movie, and then mine is gone from the public consciousness. I’d feel a bit sad, a bit depressed. I’d feel like an addict. I would need to make another one immediately to get a response; but then [when] I’m not getting a response, and I’m getting great box office, it becomes instant gratification and then instant forgetting.

West:  Yeah, an explosion comes instantly, and then is gone instantly. A film is good when it leaves you with some questions, something a little ambiguous, you can come back to it over and over again. Unfortunately, that kind of film doesn’t make billions of dollars.

Ahluwalia:  The funny thing is, I get a lot of commercial offers to do commercial movies, like a Slum Dog Millionaire kind of thing. I am being offered those kinds of projects: “Can you do this [movie]; we’ll give you the writer, but it can’t be too art house.” And, I’m a bit, like—“fuck, man!” From a career point of view, it’s probably better; but it also means I’ll have a shorter life as a filmmaker, because in a couple [of] years, I’m going to be known as an old thing [making commercial movies]. So, you have to be careful about these things.

West:  Will we see more smaller, intimate, independent Indian films of the caliber of say, Iranian cinema, like Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, being made and exported to audiences abroad?

Ahluwalia: Yes, I think you will.  I think Iranian cinema is very developed, because it had the Farabi Cinema Foundation that put money into early films, [Abbas] Kiarostami for example, which then allowed for an [Asghar] Farhadi. There’s already a tradition of a delicate realism in Iran. India doesn’t have that, like America; India comes from a tradition of spectacle. You’re taking spectacle, and your working down to a smaller film.

West:  But, even in Hollywood, they’re able to turn out some great intimate films. I don’t know how things are in India about foreign cinema coming in.

Ahluwalia:  It [India] has a very strong, dominant culture of its own cinema. It’s also very star-driven. Imagine if everyone in the U.S. was making Michael Bay movies, and then one or two people make a small movie. That’s the scale. The films that are really big are the ones that bring in fifty or a hundred times their budget.  It’s really difficult, but I think its’ going to happen.

Indian cinema exceeds American cinema with double the number of films. Through the Internet, streaming video Indian cinema is available to Western audiences more than ever before. Ahluwalia is sadly correct in his charge that making smaller, more intimate, films is difficult, but as in the USA, it can be done. And Ahluwalia has indeed proven that it can and will continue to be possible in India, as well, to make films that matter.

John David West

 

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Movie-Watch: Siddharth (2014)

Rajesh Tailang


Siddharth is a film inspired by Canadian director Richie Mehta’s (I’ll Follow You Down, 2013) chance encounter in Delhi with a man who asked him for help in finding a place called Dongri. When Mehta asked what Dongri was, the man told him that it’s a place where he thinks his lost son was kidnapped and sent to.  Siddharthis Metha’s fictional exploration surrounding the disappearance of twelve-year-old Siddharth after he was sent by his father to work in another village.
 
Siddharth is a suspenseful and insightful drama that explores the difficulties of life for the poor and undereducated in India.  Mehta has successfully crafted a film that gives the viewers a real sense of location and family—he takes you into the Saini family’s world, from living in their very small apartment to working on the busy streets of New Delhi as a chain-wallah (someone who fixes zippers).  With bleak reality, Mehta shows Western viewers just how impossible life is. Siddhartha’s father, Mahendra, played by Rajesh Tailang with sensitive honesty and subtly, not only doesn’t own a photograph of his son, but also cannot take time off to search for him without losing money to feed his family.  Despite the film’s harsh realities, Mehta successfully stays clear of preaching to the audience and simply allows the film to live and breathe. Regardless of the subjects of child trafficking, family loss, and a desperate world without hope, there is an intelligently crafted sense of optimism. As an alternative to the nutrient vacant, car chase, bang-bang summer blockbusters, Siddharthis a film that is definitely worth checking out and digesting.
—John David West 
@jdwest20
Siddharth is currently playing in New York City at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and will open in Los Angeles on July 11at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, with a national release to follow.

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