Musings and Mirth

Twofer – ’80s Thrillers Run Amok


My favorite film genre of all time is ’80s thrillers. There was something about them that sets them apart from thrillers released in any other era, and we aren’t just talking about the plethora of bad perms throughout. One such perm is nice and prominent in Against All Odds (right in the sweet spot of 1984). Swoozie Kurtz’ red and stringy perm, along with Rachel Ward’s shoulder pads and Danskins, not to mention the Phil Collins power ballad? ’80s all the way.

But I happened upon two other gems this past week: Without a Trace (1983) and Betrayed (1988). If you have Debra Winger in it, a young Debra Winger in her prime you are in the thick of the bad ’80s films in general, but many of them fantastic thrillers, like Black Widow. Without a Trace seems like the film that spawned the TV series, only it did it twenty years later.

The film stars Kate Nelligan as Susan Selky whose young son disappears without a trace one day. The whole film is really about Nelligan as an actress. The detective is played by Judd Hirsch, another great icon of that era. Stockard Channing has a supporting role as “the best friend.” It is a great addition to the ’80s canon because, like most of them, it centers around one actress and she isn’t getting naked or tailored to fit the tastes of 13 year old boys. This was the era of the working woman, the yuppie, the suited female. And Nelligan’s character is no exception. They wouldn’t make this movie today because she wouldn’t be considered sympathetic.

I also like the PC eruption about stereotyping homosexuals. At first I thought they really were going to pin the murder of their young, gay, male housekeeper. But thank goodness they called out a common slur instead. I was about to hop up on that high horse and start screaming about how backwards the ’80s were. And not only that, you could tell the guy was guilty the moment he popped on screen! And and and AND why didn’t they test the kid’s underwear for blood? Right, don’t even ask.

The ’80s was PC just before the term became a joke. That is perhaps what makes Betrayed such an all-out joy to watch. Of course, it’s filled with white supremacists who go out “hunting” and kill black folk, but it’s also your standard ’80s template for the tough FBI agent. Remember, they were still kind of thought of as actresses back then. They weren’t solely sex objects in American film.

Yeah, okay. So I’ll cop to desperately trying to find a justification for my irrational love of ’80s thrillers. Point of fact: there is no justification except that I like them, I really really like them.

I will say this: I was surprised that there were so many clips from Betrayed on YouTube. Yet nothing for Without a Trace. What’s up with that?

Watching Movies with Emma: In the Line of Fire

“I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I WAS BEFORE THEY SUNK THEIR CLAWS INTO ME!”

My daughter is growing up to have great taste in movies. I think I’ve been open and honest about my weird habit of “having movies on in the background.” And usually it’s a movie I’ve seen many many times. My daughter is getting accustomed to this strange habit and can often identify the movie. Much of the time she rolls her eyes at me, like “Broadcast News,” how shocking. Not “The Silence of the Lambs.” “The Godfather” AGAIN? Every once in a great while the movie will capture her attention and she’ll sit down and watch it with me. Mind you, I’m usually working on my computer or cleaning n’ organizing when said movie is on.

And so it was one such movie, In the Line of Fire that captured her attention. The main reason for this was due almost entirely to John Malkovich. She had already taken a major shine to Malkovich because we’ve both seen Burn After Reading so many times we can practically quote the entire film. And, of course, Malkovich is BRILLIANT in that film.

But he’s great in this one too. He’s easily the best thing about it. Much of it is just your standard, run of the mill political thriller (my favorite kind, next to ’80s thrillers). But Malkovich’s performance of the psychopathic Leary aka Mr. Carney is the stuff of legends.

My daughter has a keen ear for great lines of dialogue. Naturally she picked right up on one of the funniest lines Malkovich says – when he’s lying about “being from Minneapolis” he kind of insults the nice bank lady (whom he later murders). After he’s insulted her he tries to throw her off track by saying, “you have a very pleasant way about you.” This, of course, became one of our favorite sayings.

But there isn’t a line Malkovich says in the film that isn’t instantly quotable. Check out the following two scenes that some youtuber kindly spliced together — they are two of Malkovich’s best scenes, even if it isn’t the “you have a very pleasant way about you” scene.

My favorite two lines from these clips are, “why did you kill that bird, asshole?” And “You better show me SOME GODDAMNED RESPECT!”

Another great teaching moment came after Emma questioned how the elderly Clint Eastwood could come on to a woman who looked so much younger (Rene Russo). And the answer to that is, simply, “well, he’s Clint Eastwood.” He’s Clint Eastwood. It really is as simple as that.

12th Birthday

12 always seemed like a milestone year to me. 12 is so different from 13, and 14, and 15, and 16 and 17, and 18. When we are growing up, each year represents a whole and particular time in our lives. What does 12 send you back to? It takes me back to the awkward years. There were a few things that saved me when I was 12. My time spent with my best friend Clara, and movies. Movies were especially helpful in making 12 go down a little easier.

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Birds in Nice Airport

All of the years I’ve been reading about the Cannes film fest and no one ever mentioned that there are little sparrows roaming around, setting up camp, and pestering the passengers before.

As I left very early Thursday morning, en route to Germany and then back to Los Angeles (more on that marathon flight in a moment) I caught the sunrise at the Nice Airport and declared it to be the prettiest airport I’d ever sat in. The thing about Europeans is that they do everything just a bit nicer than we do it here. There is much to love about being here in Los Angeles – my creature comforts are within a five mile radius – coffee, yoga, Whole Foods – but the quality of life overall seems, to me, nicer in parts of France and Italy. How can I explain it?

Like this sculpture just a-sitting there in the terminal. One can’t believe it.

Sunrise at the Nice airport was something to behold. The whole terminal seemed designed for beauty – the sea, the mountains, the sky. Oh, and I really learned the value of being the early bird because if you can get there earliest you can select a better seat. If you arrive late, you have to take what they have left.

Birds soared right and left, and would bravely land on my table, knowing they might get a crumb or two.

Some might be inclined to consider them unsightly or germ spreaders – but to me they were little bursts of life. And I needed it at 6am. I’d woken up at 4am and lugged my bags down my hobbit stairs at the B&B I was staying in. I could have taken the train and then a cab from the Nice station – but frankly, lugging my bag up and down the stairs was a horrific prospect at 4am, so I just dropped $100 on a cab.

This turned out to be the best choice as I was there easily and early and mostly sweat free.

You never want to be behind me in the security line, trust me, especially this time. I was wearing boots, which meant I had to pull them off each time. But it wasn’t just boots, it was:

Laptop out of bag
Purse
Camera bag
Scarf
Laptop bag
Boots
Coat

So, all told, around four or five treys. Not a pretty picture. Each time I was certain I would forget something. But I didn’t lose a damned thing – not a ticket, not a boarding pass, not a key – I remembered it all.

When I finally lugged all of my shit to the terminal to hunker down until my 7:45am flight, I was relieved to see that bright, pastel sunrise – an impressionist’s inspiration if ever there was one.

Cannes Leaves Me Homesick

And then there is the matter of home. It didn’t really hit me until last night how homesick I am. I started to panic for the first time because I realized that my little girl is at home feeling a sense of unwanted independence for the first time herself. I was such a scared kid growing up, with many opportunities to feel the panic of having been left, that I was determined to never have her feel that way. This is probably why I did not let her go for a full two weeks after she was born. I did not even put her down — oh maybe I did when I had to change her diaper.

Since then, she has been with me almost every day of her life, give a sleepover or two here or there. Never more than two nights has she been away from me. And so these ten days have been hard on her. Good for her ultimately, I think, because she is growing up. She’s 12 and that’s old enough to start feeling independence. I am not worried about her nor do I feel the need to rush back and “rescue” her. That would send the message back to her that she can’t handle it. She CAN handle it. She’s a strong and capable girl.

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About Me

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