Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why the '80s were the best decade for movies

Wow, what a bold statement! You should probably read further to see why this guy would say something like that. Cuz that's crazy.

Ask anyone what decade was the best decade for movies. What reasoning are they going to give? Odds are they're going to list off some of their favorite movies from that time frame and use that as their argument. Its only fair; people do that with everything. When asked "what is your favorite band?" and "why?", people are likely to list off a handful of songs and/or albums that they loved, and that's all you could expect. But to me, it goes further than that. In a lot of ways, the reason I like the '80s more than any other decade has nothing to do with what good movies came out during that time. Here, let me explain. To me, both surrounding decades had better great movies. Some of my favorite movies ever came out in the '90s, '70s, 2010s, and '00s: There Will Be Blood, Her, The Conversation, Ed Wood, Dead Alive, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, The Exorcist, and so on. But what about the opposite? The '90s and '00s gave us some of the finest films of the past 50 years, but also introduced us to things like Nothing But Trouble, Freddy Got Fingered, and Gigli. When were the '80s ever that bad? Even the most terrible movies of the '80s were oddly watchable. Howard The Duck, Road House, and Jaws 3-D are all terrible movies. Terrible. But they're still enjoyable in a campy, ridiculous kind of way. And ultimately, movies are just a form of entertainment, so generally there's only one thing I really want most of the time I plug a movie in: entertainment. So instead of watching Jack And Jill or Bucky Larson, I would rather stick with some terrible Van Damme movie or Flash Gordon, because even if the movie sucks, I will still love watching it.

So, I'm going to drop a few names here, and maybe you can notice a trend when I do: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicolas Cage. Well, apart from Cage, these all are some of the biggest action stars of all-time. And pretty much all of their notable movies were released in the '80s. And yes, most of those movies were pretty awful. But they were SO entertaining. But it wasn't just the bad action movies, but witnessing the creativity involved in these films' attempts at special effects and general boundlessness of the movies once they realized how few restrictions they had on their craft. The '70s had all-but abandoned the traditional "epic", going for more reserved large-scale films like The Godfather or Patton. This is by no means a complaint, but apart from slight differences in the film-making techniques used in movies like that, they're the kind of movies that could have been released in any other decade. It was only in the tail-end of the '70s that we really saw filmmakers commit to the craziness. But what point in that entire decade would we see movies like Jaws 3-D, Hercules, Flash Gordon, and Clash Of The Titans? Those movies, to name a few, had some of the most baffling visual effects I've ever seen, and none of them could ever be mistaken for anything but a product of the '80s. But unlike films from the '90s with equally lousy effects (thanks, CG), there was a quirky charm to the way these movies pulled them off. Instead of holding back, the '80s were a decade full of big ideas, big effects, and big risks. Sometimes they didn't pan out in the way they were obviously intended, but the charm of these films' efforts has still aged very well.

Also, there is a little bit of nostalgia and appreciation for how this decade really changed movies. Yes, Jaws, Superman: The Movie, and the first Star Wars came out in the '70s, but the blockbuster film played a much bigger part of the '80s (note the release dates of all three films I just mentioned were in the second half of that decade, closer to the '80s). With films like Back To The Future, The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, E.T., Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Temple Of Doom, The Last Crusade, Aliens, Ghostbusters, and The Terminator, it's hard to deny that some of the biggest, most important blockbusters ever made came out during this decade. Whether you view this as a good thing or not is all up to you, but I see any change of this magnitude to be, in the very least, notable. Ultimately, in a lot of ways, it all boils down to how often you watch movies. For me, it's daily. And if I don't watch a movie on one day, I will at least have sat through several more on a different day later on that week. So, knowing that I really love movies and watch them whenever I have free time, I think it's fairly safe to say I don't always watch good movies. I've seen thousands of movies, and though I have that predisposition to enjoy movies (almost regardless of how *good* they actually are), I have still sat though hundreds and hundreds of mediocre and bad ones. That's to be expect. But from the 1980s, I have seen very few movies that I haven't at least enjoyed. Even the crap was often charming.

The bottom line: The '80s was the most fun decade for film, due to its supply of blockbusters, hilarious failures, and general ambition/creativity.

Obviously, there are generalizations being made here. If you feel I missed out on anything, don't be surprised if I agree with you. When trying to cover the history of film in less than 1000 words, it's hard to be detailed. But please, tell me what you think.

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