I am a child of the 1980s. I remember the first time I played Pong at my Aunt DoDo's house in Loving, Oklahoma. I remember the first time I saw Space Invaders in the Pryor Creek Wal-Mart. I didn't think it could ever get better than that--then I played Asteroids. I didn't think it could every get better than that--then I played Tron. I am a creature of the single button, single joystick generation of 8 bit video game nerds. I owned an Atari 2600. I listened to Saga extremely loud in my bedroom in 1982 as I battled for a new hi-score at Zaxxon on my brand new Colecovision. I played Dungeons and Dragons, but much preferred to play the lesser known role-playing game Boot Hill. It had all the same dice, but was set in dusty, tumbleweed western settlements and instead of elves, demons and orcs, was full of outlaws, gunslingers, posses, firearms and horses.
There were lots of books and lots of music, but this is a blog about movies, so you aren't going to read about my obsession with music made by synthesizers and machines that started in 1983 and is still going strong nearly thirty years later. Back to the movies. I spent my largely unmonitored pre-teen and early teenage years drowning in everything I could get my eyeballs on. I was lucky enough to watch these films in a theatre in my pre-teen and early teenage years: Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian, The Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Halloween II, The Shining, Return of the Jedi, Aliens, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds, Risky Business, The Karate Kid, The Terminator, 48 Hours, Airplane, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Flash Gordon, Ghostbusters, Max Dugan Returns, Mr. Mom, Nine to Five, Porky's, The Last American Virgin, The Thing, Poltergeist, Raging Bull, Red Dawn, Repo Man, The Outsiders, Sixteen Candles, Stripes, This is Spinal Tap, Tron, Trading Places, Time Bandits and on and on and on and on. Oh, here's a few more: A Clockwork Orange, Halloween or Close Encounters of the Third Kind and many, many others.
I feel kind of sorry for kids growing up today and the choices they have for what they get to go watch [or listen to, but as I said earlier, that's another rant entirely]. They get a bunch of pre-packaged, market-tested out the yin-yang formulaic sequels, overblown CGI comic book adaptations or re-treads of films that were done DURING the 1980s. The problem for this generation is when it comes to cult cinema remakes, they are getting a soulless, watered down version of a film that was more fun and more entertaining when it originally came out. It's sad really to think that the whole notion of "cult" films has pretty much disappeared under the laser beam brightness that is The Internet. It's all out there waiting, just a clickety-clack of keyboard stroke away. You want immediate gratification, you've got immediate gratification. In the 1970s and 1980s, low-budgeted movies spread by word of mouth and by battered VHS tape [all hail the king!] or pay channels on cable that created a complete ground swell celebrating cult cinema. At my house, it was illegally procured technology that made it possible to get every single movie channel through our gigantic satellite dish in the back yard. When you saw something your friends hadn't seen, you lorded it over them until they got their a*ses in gear and watched it too. I doubt there will be a swooning nostalgia for the culture in this current decade, as so much of popular culture now is just a regurgitation of something that has already happened. If that makes me seem like a carmudgeonly old fogey, so be it. The truth hurts sometimes.
After finishing the book, I re-watched WarGames for the first time in over a decade. I still love it. When it was released, I watched it over and over on the satellite. Matthew Broderick was a computer nerd hero, taking on the military and wooing the adorable Ally Sheedy. What made WarGames work in 1983 is that it's set in a cold-war world where nuclear annihilation was still a topic of conversation. In the early 1980s, we still had nuclear blast drills at my school in rural Oklahoma. I couldn't figure out how getting in the hall or getting under the desk was going to save any of us. I'd been traumatized in the same year by The Day After on ABC, I knew better than to believe what the silly teachers in Pryor Creek were telling us. Lies. Nuclear armageddon paranoia was everywhere. Computers and video games were fairly new to the masses, so they had an power to them no matter how dated the computers in WarGames appear to us twenty-eight years later. It works in 1983, but the same idea, transferred to 2011? Come on. It's just going to be another cash grab by producers/writers/directors who can't pull an original idea out of the sky even if it was floating a few inches in front of them.
Read Ready Player One. Watch WarGames. Celebrate the originals rather than the awful remakes. Here's a clip of the only WarGames that will ever be worth watching to leave you with a dose of 1980s nostalgia.
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