Holiday Rewind: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Yesterday’s Movies has been going on for long enough that even though I’ve been more likely to avoid seasonal movies than write a holiday post, there are enough holiday movies in the back catalog that I can take a month to review my reviews.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the only movie I ever think of as a “Thanksgiving movie”. Well, excluding A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it’s only a half-hour special. And it could really work just as well as a Christmas movie, but that just makes it slightly more interesting that it’s different like that.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Paramount Pictures 1987.

Neal Page’s family lives in Chicago, but he’s working in New York, which is a little unclear whether this is a regular thing or an increasingly frequent business meeting trip, but his plan is to dash out of his last meeting before the break and catch the 6:00 flight home. Even though some oaf with a huge trunk ineptly foils his attempts to get a cab twice, he manages to make it to the airport just in time to see his flight get delayed, and while waiting, he meets that oaf, the obliviously talkative Del Griffith, itinerant shower curtain ring salesman. Who is also his seatmate for the flight when they do get to board. When O’Hare gets shut down due to a snowstorm, Neal and Del’s flight gets diverted to Witchita, where Del suggests they share a cab to a motel he knows. On a complete disaster of a trip home, Del seems to have all the answers, but also provide all the problems, and Neal is seemingly shackled to this bad luck charm of a man by fate.

I’m always a little surprised to see this is a John Hughes movie. Hughes is cemented in my mind as being associated with teen (and preteen) coming of age movies, but I know he’s made plenty of adult-focused movies as well. Especially having that in mind this time, I kept thinking that Neal’s house looks like the Home Alone house, but it turns out they aren’t even the same style. Apparently Neal’s is a colonial and Kevin’s is a Georgian, and even bigger than Neal’s.

I think I know what I was going for when I called it “comedy that piles misery on top of misery”, but that’s more about secondhand embarrassment. When a protagonist is making a fool of themselves, it makes me squirm, but the humiliation Neal is going through isn’t embarrassment, it’s indignity. Neal suffering through this trip teaches him the humility to care for even someone as annoying as Del who’s reaching out for some human companionship.

There’s a couple of places where the editing is a bit confusing because something nondiegetic isn’t immediately recognizable as not being part of the scene, but that’s my main quibble. The no-homo type jokes in the shared hotel scene haven’t even aged all that terribly, as the main object of humor is the men’s own insecurities.

In a landscape replete with Christmas movies of all genres, this holiday travel movie doesn’t even have to be nominally set at Thanksgiving to have staying power. John Hughes seems to have had some kind of sense of how to make an evergreen classic through very human storytelling. Cookie cutter Hallmark movies may pull at the heartstrings, but I feel like movies like this give a nudge to the soul.

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.

YesterMovies Rewind: Simon Birch

rewind

Five years ago this month, Yesterday’s Movies officially began. To celebrate half a decade of movie reviews, I’m rewatching some of the highlights and giving them second-look reviews. I’m closing out this series with the very first movie reviewed here, Simon Birch.

I know I originally chose this one because I’d just read the book it was based on, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and I recall it ended up not having much to do with the book.

I also think I remember Christmas being a major part of the movie, being a major episode somewhere in the middle of a story told over about a year or so. I’m not sure if I said something about it in the original review, but I’m recalling a feeling very similar to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. oddly. That and the bus scene are all I really remember.

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YesterMovies Rewind: Family Plot

rewind

Family Plot. Universal Pictures 1976.
Family Plot. Universal Pictures 1976.

Five years ago this month, Yesterday’s Movies officially began. To celebrate half a decade of movie reviews, I’m rewatching some of the highlights and giving them second-look reviews. This week, I’m giving the unfairly forgotten Family Plot another try.

In May of 2011, I was preparing to leave for an extended stay in another state, and I’d decided that my last review the night before leaving would be a family copy of Family Plot. However, shortly after I began watching the movie, I received word canceling the lodgings I thought I’d secured for my trip. I spent the next few hours frantically trying to make other arrangements, and while I managed to get a review posted, I probably hadn’t had enough attention to give it. Therefore, I always wanted to find an opportunity to give it another attempt, since it’s probably the film on this blog most deserving of a second look.

That story is pretty much all of what I remember about the movie. It’s some kind of comedy about murder, but I think that much is stated on the box.

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YesterMovies Rewind: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

rewind

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Cannon Films 1987.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Cannon Films 1987.

Five years ago this month, Yesterday’s Movies officially began. To celebrate half a decade of movie reviews, I’m rewatching some of the highlights and giving them second-look reviews. This week I’m taking another look at the worst movie I ever reviewed, Superman IV.

I remember this being a completely irredeemable movie. The acting phoned in, the story misguided and nonsensical, and the special effects being too terrible to forgive. The only time I couldn’t recommend anyone watch it. So I’m gonna watch it again!

I’m really hoping I’ll find something good about it that I missed the first time. The story is what it is because Christopher Reeve believed in its message, so hopefully I’ll find at least him to be fully committed to the result.

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YesterMovies Rewind: L.A. Story

L.A. Story. Carolco Pictures, 1991.
L.A. Story. Carolco Pictures, 1991.

Five years ago, on December 4, 2009, Yesterday’s Movies officially began. To celebrate half a decade of movie reviews, I’m rewatching some of the highlights and giving them second-look reviews. I’m kicking it off with a look back at the best reviewing experience I had, L.A. Story.

As I recall, I’d heard the film spoken of glowingly, but never expected it to be much more than one more copy-paste romantic comedy. I didn’t expect the amount of fun, warmth, and satire, and I certainly didn’t expect the element of fantasy. At this point the main thing I remember about the plot is that Steve Martin falls in love with a woman he probably shouldn’t. Also there’s a cameo with Patrick Stewart.

I’m concerned that it won’t be as good as I remember, simply because so much of my impression was born from the gulf between what I expected and what I actually saw.

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