Mammas don’t let your boys grow up to be Urban Cowboys!

MOV_6923b109_bAs I roundup my reviews, I reflect on the components of a fan-fucking-tastic ’80s movie. If you don’t remember, refer to my About Last Night… review.

The movie Perfect got ten out of ten
Purple Rain got nine out of ten
About Last Night got eight out of ten
And drum roll please… Urban Cowboy got seven out of ten

Urban Cowboy (UC) was sweaty, slummy, and hot! Aaron Latham wrote Urban Cowboy. Latham also co-wrote the movie Perfect (1st movie we reviewed for Valentine’s Special), another Travolta film. Both films were based off of articles written by Latham in the ’70s. Urban Cowboy takes place in Texas. This Honky Tonk love story is centered around two dysfunctional lovebirds: “Bud,” played by John Travolta, and Sissy, played by Debra Winger. Bud is a hothead, country bumpkin who moves in with his uncle Bob, played by Barry Corbin, to find work at an oil rig. Winger lives in the same town and works with her parents. Sissy and Bud meet at the local Honky Tonk (#1), which is where most of the movie takes place. They start dancing after they antagonize each other and engage in some serious tongue action (#7). Of course, we get to see Travolta strut his stuff. This time it’s country (#10). I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to play the banjo and get my line dancing on! This movie was instrumental in revamping Travolta’s image. He wanted roles that showcased his acting and not his hip action. He definitely pulled off the macho thing. The country western dancing in this film was very sexy and masculine. It made me forget he wore tights in Staying Alive.

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Urban Cowboy (1980)

11740Starring John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn, Madolyn Smith Osborne, Barry Corbin, Brooke Alderson, Cooper Huckabee, James Gammon, Mickey Gilley

Directed by James Bridges

Expectations: Moderate.

fourstar


HEE YAW! Hoo-doggies, this was a good’un, y’all! Now before you starts to saying I don’t know shit from Shinola, hear me out. You might be like I was and think that Urban Cowboy is “that mechanical bull movie,” and you’re not wrong. But what I wasn’t prepared for was just how engrossing and well-made “that mechanical bull movie” would be. Even though previous Valentine’s film Perfect (the pelvic gyration instructional film) was made by the same team (journalist/screenwriter Aaron Latham and director James Bridges), I still had no idea that this would be anything more than John Travolta looking cool in a cowboy hat for two hours. There’s definitely a lot of that, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much more to Urban Cowboy than it would appear at first glance.

The story is actually rather similar to Perfect, just substituting mechanical bull riding for the aerobic thrusts. Kinda. Anyway, the basic framework is the same, with a new guy entering a sub-culture and immersing himself in it completely. Judging off of the two films, I really wish the Latham/Bridges team had made more films, plumbing the depths of trendy American life from sea to shining sea, but I guess we’ll have to be content with the two we got. Anyway, the film opens as Bud (John Travolta) is leaving his family and his small town to find success in the big city of Houston. His uncle lives there and he helps him get a job at the oil refinery where he works. But first he takes Bud to Gilley’s, a real-life Texas honky-tonk, and it changes Bud’s life. There he meets Sissy (Debra Winger), a hot lil’ spunky cowgirl looking for a real cowboy, and within a few days the two done got hitched!

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Mini-Review: WarGames (1983)

Starring Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Ally Sheedy, Barry Corbin, Juanin Clay, Kent Williams, Dennis Lipscomb, Joe Dorsey, Irving Metzman, Eddie Deezen

Directed by John Badham

Expectations: High, this is one of those catch-up films from the 80s.


WarGames is one of those 80s movies I never saw as a kid. I’ve been told I saw it, but it must have been before my brain was laying down permanent pathways for memories to set up shop, as I don’t remember a thing. It turns out all the hype and the general love thrown towards this film is actually warranted as it’s fun, exciting and still damn entertaining even today. It’s not without its faults though, after the first false alarm does no one ask the computer guy to see if it’s another game? This seems like the first question I’d ask, and I can’t imagine that the people in power would be that clueless. (Insert your anti-establishment jokes here.)

I finally watched this film because of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One. That book is a fucking thrill ride of awesome for anyone that grew up in the 70s/80s and WarGames figures into it pretty heavily, so naturally I wanted to watch it after finishing the book. The book actually follows a good number of the plot points of the film, ripping off details both small and large. The nature of the novel makes this dissection and reassembly of pop culture vital to its success, so I can’t complain about it at all without completely ripping the book apart. And I wouldn’t want to do that to what is easily the most enjoyable book I’ve read in the last couple of years.

In any case, I absolutely loved the first half of WarGames when Broderick’s teen hacker is at center-stage, hacking passwords and systematically dialing phone numbers phishing for a data line. When the film’s stakes get raised, it all starts to get a little too hard to believe for me to fully commit to it. As I said above, did everyone forget about the computer until the end? These are issues I never would have had as a kid and it makes me somewhat sad to realize this. I can’t imagine how they’ll make the story plausible enough for modern audiences in the inevitable remake. The film also starts to drag after the halfway mark as the general nature of the conclusion is fairly obvious to careful viewers, so a lot of the tension that should be there just isn’t.

Regardless of any issues, I had a blast watching WarGames and I think it’s a true gem of the 1980s. Despite its Cold War themes and lime-green computer displays, it maintains a level of modernity and relevance to make the film absolutely worth watching. Matthew Broderick pulls off the cocky whiz kid routine to perfection and Barry Corbin plays military honcho better than most could in their dreams. Director John Badham shoots the film with a gorgeous eye for color and balance, with especially great uses of steadicam to evoke the military efficiency of the opening scene. If you’re like me and you somehow avoided catching this one, definitely give it a go.

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