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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It’s Totally Perfect!

MOV_55b8ce66_bToday many movies are for entertainment and are not classically great. I believe a great movie is one that you can’t get enough of; you just have to watch it over and over again. The movie Perfect falls under the “great” category. Usually movies are categorized into one or two genres, but Perfect takes the cake and slices its way into three categories: drama, comedy, and romance. Too bad sexy isn’t a genre. Perfect is a great movie because it manages to capture a time period with its awesome history, radical setting, and bitchin’ acting. When we think of films rooted in history we often think Schindler’s List or Hotel Rwanda, but not Perfect. Perfect is, however, based upon a series of articles by journalist Aaron Latham that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in the ’70s and ’80s.

The movie’s two main characters are Adam Lawrence (John Travolta), a writer for Rolling Stone, and Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis), a fitness instructor for The Sports Connection. The movie begins with Adam trying to persuade his boss Mark (Jann Wenner, real-life founder and editor of Rolling Stone) to send him to Los Angeles to get an interview with a notorious mobster. Mark agrees to send Adam to California with the stipulation that Adam will simultaneously write a story about fitness clubs becoming the new “singles’ bars” in California.

In the ’80s, the health and fitness craze was in full swing. Bally’s Total Fitness, Richard Simmons, Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical, and Nike’s Just Do It campaign were all introduced. The Sports Connection was a legendary institution, considered a main hub of America’s newfound obsession with StairMasters, dance aerobics, and sweatbands. It was the first club to give its members the total package, offering healthy foods, juice bars, instructor-led training sessions, and a place where singles could meet other singles. Although the film is not historical in the traditional sense, it captures the essence of the sun-soaked, sweat-drenched California of the eighties. The beaches, palm trees, roller skating, and overall California vibe are a constant backdrop, not to mention the blatant sexuality of living in California during the height of the fitness craze. Jessie also represents the archetypical fitness instructor, wearing leg warmers, headbands, tights, and leotards throughout the film. When a movie is able to weave non-fictional events into a fictional framework, there is much more substance.

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Perfect (1985)

perfect-movie-poster-1985-1020252039Starring John Travolta, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jann Wenner, Marilu Henner, Laraine Newman, Anne De Salvo, Mathew Reed

Directed by James Bridges

Expectations: High.

threestar


I think it’s clichéd to open up with some variation of “Perfect was perfect!” but for what it was, Perfect was kinda perfect. Modern viewers are never going to understand what makes Perfect so exciting and entertaining; they’ll be lost in the sea of skin-tight, multicolored leotards and shaking asses. But where those modern viewers might call Perfect‘s dated and very ’80s vibe a bad thing, this was exactly what made it so enjoyable to me. It reminded me of my childhood when the aerobics craze was sweeping the nation, with hype so huge I thought aerobics had only just been invented. How proud I was at six years old to live in a time when we had discovered this new, fun way to tone our bodies.

Perfect tells the story of Adam Lawrence (John Travolta), a reporter for Rolling Stone who’s working on a huge story surrounding the investigation of a business man accused of shady dealings. While on an interview for this story, he happens to spot some 20-somethings heading for the gym in their wonderful ’80s aerobic wear. One article pitch later and Travolta is investigating the health club singles’ scene at The Sports Connection in LA, and ogling a furiously gyrating Jamie Lee Curtis.

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