Batteries Not Included

Batteries Not Included. Amblin Entertainment 1987.

Before watching the movie:

The log line for the movie I’m expecting this to be is something like “the elves and the shoemaker, but with extraterrestrial robots”. That’s how I’m interpreting “desperate people get help from tiny robotic aliens”. The title seems more like a topical joke than anything particularly related to that story.

What particularly interests me is that Brad Bird has a writing credit. Spielberg’s name got this movie made, but I wonder if I can spot the early Brad Bird in the story.

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Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect. 3 Arts Entertainment. 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I know pretty much nothing about this movie. I am informed that the premise involves the main character faking a fiance for apparent life stability to get promoted at work, which I hope gets a little more justified, because anywhere else will look at your job as the sign of how stable your life is. Interesting to note that this 90s boss wants a female employee to be engaged though, since only a few decades earlier marriage was seen as a career-ending move for women.

I will also note that the handwritten-style title, particularly when displayed in white, strongly reminds me of Friends, which I wouldn’t doubt was intentional, this being a late 90s movie starring a Friends alum.

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Bedazzled (1967)

Bedazzled. 20th Century Fox 1967.

Before watching the movie:

Yes, there was a remake in 2000, which I haven’t seen either, but I was aware of at the time (I was only 12, there was no way I’d have gotten permission even if I wanted to see it).

I’m surprised by the critics’ comments about the intelligence of the movie. There’s a similar poster out there that has the quote shown here as well as another one calling it “an intellectual’s Hellzapoppin“. Considering it’s impossible to find a poster that doesn’t sell the movie on Raquel Welch’s body, I never thought “smart” would be a word to describe it.

What really sold me on it was the lead duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. I’m guessing the intelligence of the comedy comes from the ways the wishes get twisted.

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Heavyweights

Heavyweights. Caravan Pictures 1995.

Before watching the movie:

How did I not know about this movie until right now? It came out in the mid-90s with Disney backing and it’s about put-upon fat camp kids taking over the camp. Why was I not all over this as a kid? Where was the hype?

Sure, it’s hardly a tentpole movie. Ben Stiller and Judd Apatow are the biggest names on it, and both near the beginning of their careers. I don’t expect it to be to modern standards of body positivity, but how often do you see the plump kids as the heroes?

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Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb. Arcola Pictures 1965.

Before watching the movie:

This is being promoted as a romp with a wife who invents a lover to get revenge on her husband for spending more time with his secretary. Apparently it also involves travel to Europe, but I’m not clear how big a part of the movie that is. I suspect the story starts with them relocating for business reasons, and then the new secretary at the new office gets too much of the husband’s attention.

This is based on a play, so I’m expecting some really good dialogue, very long scenes, and a handful of location scenes in Europe because movies feel obligated to Open Up a play.

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Kate and Leopold

Kate & Leopold. Konrad Pictures 2001.

Before watching the movie:

This is such a minor detail in my memory of the time and all that I’m not sure if I remember any promotional material that would have said this is about a time-displaced nobleman in modern times or if I more surmised it from the way the title makes a point of highlighting the difference in their names and extrapolating. Extrapolating very, very far. And also he dresses very nicely, but the basics of men’s formalwear haven’t changed in the last few centuries. Anyway, I know that that’s what this is about now, but since I don’t directly remember being told that before I selected this now, I’m not entirely certain if I was ever told that.

Turning my thoughts to “person from history is now transplanted to the modern day” movies, I’m particularly interested in the fact that I can’t think of any stories that were contemporary to before the 80s (Specifically, Time After Time). I’m sure there were some, and now I’m pretty interested in what the early part of the 20th century would’ve imagined the people of earlier centuries would have thought of them.

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Gremlins

Gremlins. Amblin Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

So, here’s one of those 80s classics I missed. I know the rules of the gremlins, I’ve heard an argument that the change the gremlins undergo is a metaphor for puberty, but I really don’t know all that much about what’s actually in the movie.

Apparently it’s one of the things Spielberg was involved in at least to the point of having his name on it opened doors, but the fact that it’s written by Chris Columbus probably tells me a lot about what to expect.

After watching the movie:

Randall Peltzer, an inventor trying to sell his comically disappointing inventions, visits an antique shop in Chinatown to try to sell something or at least get his son a Christmas present. Finding an adorable furry creature the shopkeeper calls a “Mogwai”, Randall insists on buying it and is refused on the grounds that one is too much responsibility, but the shopkeeper’s grandson secretly sells it to him with the instructions to keep him away from bright light, never get him wet, and never feed him after midnight. Randall takes “Gizmo” home to his son Billy, who cares for him well, until a friend spills a glass of water on him and five new, more mischievous Mogwai spawn off Gizmo’s back. Not long after, the younger Mogwai trick Billy into feeding them late by stopping his clock, and they metamorphose into vicious monsters bent on killing anyone they see, wrecking the town, and generally having a lot of fun.

I never realized Billy would be so old. I expected a child protagonist, and Billy is in his late teens or early 20s, and moreover the principal breadwinner for his family through his job as a low-level peon at the bank thanks to his father being a full-time crackpot inventrepreneur. He is in fact, old enough to have a love interest subplot with his principal companion for the final act, though the nature of his relationship with Kate doesn’t really add much.

What’s really odd though is the inclusion Billy’s dog Barney. Barney is in a position to be a major player in the plot and he’s just kind of there, except for the large chunks of the movie when he’s not even present. I’d say Barney mainly exists for Mrs. Deagle to be awful about, but that doesn’t really go anywhere either. She complains about and makes threats toward Barney until she exits the movie as a casualty of the gremlins’ mayhem. I guess they wanted to show the gremlins kill someone, but really wanted it to be okay for that person to get killed. But it’s not even a kind of poetic justice, so establishing her as being vile enough to deserve to die could’ve been done in much less time.

Orientalism is never a value add, but it’s a fact of older movies. So I’m not exceptionally bothered by the way “they’re from China” explains these fantastical creatures or the stereotypes depicted in the shopkeeper Gizmo came from. What bothers me more is the guy in town who goes on rants about how “foreigners” started putting literal gremlins in our equipment as sabotage in WWII (a superstition that was probably mostly in jest) and are still doing it… for reasons. Which could just be giving voice to prejudice for the sake of local color and setting up another unlikeable victim, except the ending narration lends credence to the rants by specifically tying the Mogwai to those foreigner sabotage gremlins. Sure, the movie calls them gremlins by title and by dialogue, but without that narration, they could just be “mischievous creatures wrecking everything” without any connection to malice from foreign enemies.

A lot of horror movies have comic relief, and aside from the prop comedy of the failed inventions, the humor here is very low-key. It’s called a horror-comedy, but to me it’s just a horror with cute fuzzies. It seems a little confused throughout, but it’s probably just me not getting it.

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