Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Don’t Dream It’s Over

I watched Adventureland last night. And aside from it being one of the best and surprising movies I’ve seen in a very long time, it was also one of the only recent movies set in the 80s that is not completely ridiculous. Now I understand that the 80s were a completely ridiculous decade – the amount of neon alone worn by everyone, myself included, was absolutely astonishing, not to mention the presidents (Reagan and Bush, seriously?), the dancing, the cars, and, of course, the music. Still, most movies about the 80s just ham it up a little too much. Movie’s like the Wedding Singer are pretty perfect, but even one of my favorite movies, 200 Cigarettes, gets a little heavy handed with the weird Flock of Seagulls haircut comedy. The best of this new oeuvre comes when the 80s are a backdrop for a great story, where the story isn’t the 80s, but merely an extra layer to paint a full picture.

The thing I realized as I was sitting in Adventureland was that 80s music is the only kind of music that really can’t be used as a background to any other time period. If I’m watching a modern romantic comedy and a Crowded House song comes on, all I’m thinking about is how funny it is that they’re using this song. I feel the 80s, more than any other decade claims this trophy of its music being so totally of the time. A romantic scene in a movie can use a Cat Stevens song or a Joni Mitchell song and you, the viewer, aren’t automatically transported to another decade. However, the same scene, with Duran Duran or Pat Benatar over it is automatically just going to pull you back to the 80s.

This is not to say that particular bands from each particular decade don’t have this same effect: Jefferson Airplane will always be 70s and can really only work within a 70s context. The Smashing Pumpkins will always be 90s, more so than Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and will always pull an audience into the 90s when used in film. But no decade even comes close to being as recognizable as the 80s. Perhaps it’s the overuse of synthesizer or keytar, perhaps it’s the fact that video and music were married in the 80s on MTV and we’ll always match those songs with their videos (I mean, can anyone listen to Take on Me by Aha without picturing the crazy half-animated video?).

But when a movie is set in the 80s, when it uses music right, there’s a kind of magic that happens. Maybe it’s only magic for me, for whom those songs are completely intertwined with major childhood and young adult experiences, but I think this may not be the case. Perhaps, the magic comes from the fact that we don’t hear those songs under every love scene, that for once we’re not hearing Norah Jones while the two main characters are getting together, and the relative newness of hearing an old song after so long of not hearing it brings us back to a more innocent place. In any case, my love of 80s music has been rediscovered thanks to Adventureland, and in all honesty, it’s pretty damn sweet. Well, with the exception of Rock Me Amadeus.

Peace, Love, and Big Hair,


April 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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