Rewind: Adventures in Babysitting

Yesterday’s Movies began in December 2009. I’m marking ten years of … uh, zeitgeist hitting the fan, apparently, with a look back at the first movie I reviewed on a weekly update schedule.

Adventures in Babysitting.
Touchstone/Silver Screen Partners III 1987

I remember this movie positively, so I’m surprised how negative my review sounds. My topics still might not necessarily flow into each other, but I try to be coherent on at least the level of paragraphs. I’m pretty sure my original review is more jumbled than the movie seemed to me at the time.

While Thor is still a random character to be enamored with for the 80s, his film appearances in the last decade have certainly raised his relevancy now. In 2009, if I even knew that Marvel Studios was making a Thor movie, I was aghast and perplexed that someone thought he was a movie superhero. His first two solo movies didn’t do much to change my mind, but as an ensemble player and in Ragnarok, I enjoy him a lot now.

Chris’s boyfriend cancels on their anniversary dinner at the last minute, and Chris ends up agreeing to babysit Thor fan Sara and her older brother Brad, who has a freshman crush on Chris. When Chris’s friend Brenda spends all her money running away to the bus station downtown, Chris takes her charges into the city, along with Brad’s lecherous friend Daryl. A fast succession of misadventures soon causes them to be targeted by a murderous gang of car thieves.

It’s a lot easier to complain about movies than to discuss what’s good or analyze them. I still think Daryl’s initial portrayal is way over the top, but that comes from a combination of him being a kid who doesn’t know or care what’s not okay in a time when they didn’t know as well what wasn’t okay. Everyone’s characterizations as they’re introduced are a little heavy-handed, it’s just that Daryl’s really hasn’t aged well.

For a city as diverse as Chicago, it seems a little odd that the three different music venues visited are all into rhythm and blues. It’s good music, and the Babysitting Blues is a highlight of a scene, but I think it reveals where someone’s taste in music lay.

I think Sara’s love of Thor might be meant to draw a parallel between comic book adventures and the gang’s series of travails. Every time they get themselves out of trouble, they quickly land in a new kind of it. Also Thor may a bit of an odd choice, but he definitely is one of the easiest comic book superheroes to accidentally cosplay as, which leads to the most important Sara scene.

Looking back at what I was writing ten years ago, I think it’s easy to see how much I’ve grown into this. I don’t always feel like my writing makes sense, but I’ve developed a sensibility that I don’t think would let something that disjointed get published now. A good movie deserves better than a pile of disconnected complaints.

The Bishop’s Wife

The Bishop’s Wife. RKO Radio Pictures 1948.

Before watching the movie:

Cary Grant and David Niven are an unexpected pairing. Grant gets all the focus, so I saw Cary Grant and that it’s a romance and assumed that Grant is the Bishop. But it turns out that he’s an alleged angel and Niven is the Bishop, which makes more sense for their types.

Grant’s character inveigle his way into the Bishop’s life claiming to be an angel here to help with a challenging renovation, but mostly imposes upon him and attracts the attentions of his wife, hence the title. Sounds like an unusual setup for a screwball comedy.

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The Monster Club

The Monster Club. Sword and Sorcery Productions 1981.

Before watching the movie:

This is three horror stories as framed by a vampire and the actual author of those stories going to a dance club. The packaged stories could be anything, but that frame sounds bonkers, and they seem to be positioning the rest of the movie as a bit of a spoof too.

It looks like a pretty minor cult classic that didn’t get much outside of the UK, but it features some pretty big names in monster movies, so I’m interested in seeing how this goes.

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Larger Than Life

Larger Than Life. United Artists 1996.

Before watching the movie:

At first I thought I might have been aware of this movie when it came out, but I think I was thinking of the live action scenes from Osmosis Jones, in which Murray plays a zookeeper who seems to mainly scoop elephant droppings and other low tier jobs. Here, however, he’s inherited an elephant from his estranged circus performer father.

A road movie/buddy comedy with an elephant is a really random mix that definitely creates funny moments, but how does someone come up with an idea like that?

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Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk. Exclusive Productions 1952.

Before watching the movie:

I wouldn’t say that a written script is improvisation, though I have known jazz musicians to plan out the “improvised” solos they intend to play. However, I think “improvising around the fairy tale” is a good way to describe what I expect to see here.

A movie centered around a big green thing and a golden thing (unless the only treasure in this version is the woman) seems like a good choice for an early commercial color film.

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Space Cowboys

Space Cowboys. Malpaso/Mad Chance. 2000.

Before watching the movie:

What happens when a bunch of engineers who became ranchers or something I guess go into space to fix a satellite only they can fix? This movie, apparently.

I get the conceit that these engineers are being called out of retirement to fix space-based equipment that was designed on standards nobody learns anymore, and it takes less time to train the experts to be astronauts than to train the astronauts to be experts for the same reason as Armageddon, Because that’s how you get a movie.

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Movie Movie

Movie MOvie. Warner Bros. 1979.

Before watching the movie:

I never heard of this movie before I found I had it available to me, but I like movies that satirize the movie business, and there are some big names I recognize here, so I decided to go ahead with it.

The summary I saw described it as specifically poking fun at the movies of the 30s, carrying the same ensemble through multiple genres, so it’s probably somewhat but not very much like the Hollywood Director improv game where one player keeps changing the genre on the other players while they improvise a scene.

Anthology movies are hard to synopsize though.

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Kazaam

Kazaam. Touchstone Pictures 1996.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way, but at the time that this and Space Jam came out, it seemed to me like you were either for one kids’ movie starring a basketball player or the other, and while I did get a Kazaam toy from whatever restaurant had the promotion, Space Jam had Looney Toons and space aliens, so it was no contest which one I went to see.

This is also the subject of a modern Mandela Effect misremembering, as a lot of people, myself included, started to remember the existence of a movie starring Sinbad as a genie named Shazam instead of Shaq as a genie named Kazaam. Which is strange that I fell into that too, because as I said above, I definitely remembered that it starred a basketball player, and Sinbad is a comedian.

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Going in Style

Going in Style. Warner Bros. 1979.

Before watching the movie:

I didn’t realize until I started looking for the poster that there was what appears to be a remake a couple of years ago. While the combination of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin sounds pretty compelling, I’m also drawn to the idea of seeing George Burns and Art Carney together too. Lee Strasberg is not as big a name, but I’m sure he’ll probably hold his own with the other two.

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