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Two movie questions


Two questions re movies in the '80s:

1. Summer of '96 (I think), I decided to introduce Repo Man to half a dozen (?) people from about the class of '95 and younger. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and the only movie I've seen more than about four times; it has the highest quote-density of any movie for me; for the first six or so times that I saw it, I caught more of the jokes every time. But the younger crowd were bored silly by it. There were some polite chuckles here and there, but I think a few of them fell asleep, and I got the sense that they were mystified as to how I could possibly like this movie at all, much less as much as I do.

So it seems like the movie is very much of its time. But I was never part of punk culture, and although I was from California, Northern CA is pretty different from Southern CA. So the movie's not about me and my friends; it just worked for me.

So now I'm curious: If you've seen the movie, did you like it? And whether or not you liked it, roughly when were you born and/or in high school? (If you didn't see the movie, no need to answer this.) I'm just trying to figure out whether it's a generational thing, or whether it was just a personal difference in tastes between me and those other folks I watched it with that time.

2. The repertory movie theatre in Palo Alto, the New Varsity (but that site can't be right, 'cause it says the Varsity "switched to art house fare [from first-run] in 1987," and I'm nearly certain I went to non-first-run movies there during high school) used to have certain specific double features that they would repeat regularly. One of those double features was Harold and Maude with King of Hearts. (Btw, a couple of online sources say King of Hearts hasn't aged gracefully; for what it's worth, I saw it again during college and still found it lovely and charming. But I haven't seen it in nearly 20 years, so I dunno.) Tonight, Twig mentioned that the repertory movie theatre in Portland used to show the same double feature. So now I'm curious: is that a standard double feature, or just coincidence?

Also, what about the other double features at the Varsity? For example, I think (though I may be totally wrong) that they used to regularly show Brazil with After Hours, a brilliant mad surreal dark comedy that I should probably watch again sometime to see if it's really as good as I remember it being.

And I think they used to show Buckaroo Banzai regularly (which is where this whole topic of conversation got started), but now I can't remember what, if anything, it double-featured with. Anyone remember?



1. Yes I saw Repo Man (I own it on DVD) and like it. Same high school class as you.

2. As best as I can recall, the New Varsity went through several incarnations while we were in school. By 1984 they were definitely playing 2nd run films. The only double features I remember for sure were Mad Max playing with The Road Warrior (seen in about 1984-1985 time frame,) as well as "Blade Runner" showing with and "Alien" but I know they did midnight showings of Rocky Horror on weekends. I remember seeing "The Wall" there in 1984 but can't for the life of me remember what it double billed with and the same goes for "The Year of Living Dangerously" (which might have doubled with Gallipoli, but I seem to remember "Gallipoli" was doubling with "Chariots of Fire.")

In the 1982-1984 time frame they used to host Windham Hill artists playing 3 set shows a night for a cover of a drink. At various points I saw (multiple times) shows which included:

Will Ackerman
Tuck and Patti
Michael Hedges

I remember, for a while in the 1985-1986 time frame they were hosting concerts there but bands/shows I can remember seeing there include:

Wire Train
Talk Talk and Translator
Suicidal Tendancies and Black Flag.

I know they were on the Spike and Mike Animation festival circuit and they used to also do "trailer night" where all you would see was movie trailers.

Was "trailer night" free, effectively paid for by the studios? (Aside from concession sales, of course.) Or did you actually have to buy tickets?

If I remember right, Kevin made me watch Repo Man -- he really liked it, I thought it was eh.

I still quote Repo Man long after I have lost the habit of boring proving my cool quoting the in-but-obscure things. I always found the Buckaroo Banzai had more quotes-per-line-of-dialogue than Repo Man, but those are definitely my top two. I haven't seen either of them in years.

Oh, and I was in high school in the mid-eighties, in the desert, not in California. I listened to punk, but was never part of the culture at all. I picked up Repo Man (and the habit of quoting from it) from a slightly older sibling, also born in the late sixties.


High school class of 1983 - Harry Dean Stanton rocks! I liked the first half of the movie, maybe more, but it fell apart for me at the end when it started trying to pull some sort of plot together. But I still consider it a classic. Fact: Executive Producer Michael Nesmith was an original member of The Monkees. See if any of those young whipper snapers remember that.

Here's my theory. The current college generation won't appreciate this movie because what was original and fresh and new and current about it in the 1980's is now ancient history. Dumb 1980's punks aren't a novelty anymore; they are a stereotype. Bizzare non sequitor as a vehicle for humor has been milked dry since the 1990's. The shock value of the graphic language (again, for humor, not drama) is so common now that no one blinks an eye at it. Eddie Murphy made his name by being foul-mouthed and now he's making Jerry Lewis reruns. What does that tell you?

Repo Man isn't deriviative - it was one of the originals, but a young person today has no way to know that, and they are free of the nostalgia for it. It happens in every generation. One of the funniest movies from our parent's generation was The Russians Are Coming, and it is the worst movie I ever saw. I would recommend it as a drug-free alternative to Nyquil for insomnia.

"It happens sometimes. People just explode." Films too.

I graduated from high school in '91. And I did indeed fall asleep the one time I tried to watch "Repo Man", during the year after college, but I had always chalked that up to having been tired that night; I didn't blame the movie. (I was pretty much continuously sleep-deprived during that period of my life.) I've always meant to try watching it again but just haven't gotten around to it.

I think Matthew has a great point about movies that are icons of their time looking derivative after enough time passes. T and I tried to watch the movie "MASH" a few years back, and we ended up turning it off halfway through. I think I laughed maybe once. And I think it was the same thing; what was shocking when Altman did it then is commonplace now.

I graduated HS in '84, so I'm repeating previous data points when I say I saw and much liked Repo Man, sometime within the first year of its release. I didn't like it quite as much, nor find it as quoteworthy, as Buckaroo Banzai, but it was definitely a movie I've re-watched several times since (though not in the last ten years - time to see if it still fits my head as well).

I had a similar experience to yours, about seven years ago, showing Harold & Maude to a group of mostly current students who found it less than good. I can remember Franzi saying afterwards, "what a self-centered jerk that woman was."

Regarding the New Varsity, here are my two cents:

I recall riding my bike there in 1984-1985 with friends in order to see R-rated movies as 14-15 year olds. They didn't ask for proof age they way the other theaters did.

I think the New Varsity perhaps had a transition period where they combined first-run movies (with conventional show times) with art house, cult classics, non-first run, etc. (for the late shows). I seem to recall seeing a "Flesh Gordon" and "Barbarella" twin bill there one late night with friends (we were 15 and had carbonated hormones!)

And serendipitously, I can add some specific facts here about what was shown at the New Varsity and when--Three days ago, I rec'd in the mail my journal from 1984-1985 from my closest friend at the time...he just found it after it sat in his closet for about 23 years. On Dec 1, 1984, I wrote, "I'm so psyched--'Wild Life' and 'Teachers' at the Varsity on Dec 29, and 'Stripes' and 'Ghostbusters' at the V this coming weekend. " (Ghostbusters, for example, was released in June, 1984, suggesting that the Dec Varsity show was non-first run). Also, from my journal, it looks like I saw 'Blame It On Rio" on March 18, 1984 and I believe that it was at the New Varsity, although I don't say so specifically like the Dec entry. (Blame It On Rio was released in February 1984.)

(Wow, Jed... don't think I've been in touch since 1986.)

For all the times I went to the Varsity in HS, I can't for the life of me actually remember any specifics other than the Animation Festivals. And, of course, the obgligatory Rocky Horror Picture Show viewings... anybody remember the grotesquely oversized Bert and Ernie masks? And I'm pretty sure there was a Star Wars/Forbidden Planet feature that I particularly liked.

I do fondly remember getting those monthly Varsity calendars and circling all of the films I intended to see... but naturally I didn't make it to most of those.

I graduated from PAHS in 1987... and I recall being disappointed by the Varsity's transition my senior year from cool double features to Art house theater (not b/c I didn't like Art house movies... but because Palo Alto was crawling with them).

RE Harold and Maude. I remember watching that video at KK's house... then having her take us about a block away and showing us the church where a scene was filmed. Talk about art meeting reality.

RE Repo Man. I think that was one of those films I thought I was supposed to like... but I don't think I really did. I suppose I should give it another try.

Jim Gratiot
PAHS '87
Calliope Staff '85-87

Hey Jed--class of '85, but I only saw Repo Man for the first time during college sometime. I didn't follow it at all. It's one of the hubby's top 10 favorite movies of all time, though (he's class of '86), so I've seen it a few times since then--I appreciate it but it's not on my list of favorites. I think it's a combo of generation (you had to have been there) and personal tastes (if it spoke to you at the time...).

We just watched it again before Christmas, though, and went off on an Alex Cox movie spree in Netflix (which led down some interesting roads, including some Mexican movies and indirectly to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...).

All: Thanks for the responses! I'm not seeing much of a pattern -- perhaps just what Jaipur said, a combination of generation and personal tastes. I'd be curious to hear whether anyone who graduated from high school after 1990 liked it.

Colin: Cool! I didn't remember most of that stuff.

Matthew: Interesting point about originality and freshness.

Jay: Neat re journal! That sounds really cool--was there much in it that you didn't remember?

Jim G: Wow! And hello! And very long time no see! What brought you to this page? What're you up to? I just saw KK a few weeks ago.... ...Yeah, now that you mention the Varsity calendar mailers, I remember those too.

Jaipur: Did you like the other Alex Cox movies? I think I watched maybe two of them and they did nothing for me. ...Huh, now I'm having a vague memory of having read part of the screenplay for Repo Man at you folks's house, ten or more years ago.

I graduated HS way back in 1974 and I love Repo Man. Just bought the DVD a couple of years ago to see it again for the 1st time in a loooong time. (Same for Buckaroo Banzai actually.)

More of interest to you: we had a neighbor's kid around a few Friday's in the summer to show/bore him with some of our fav movies. Showed him Repo Man ... and he loved it! Says he did anyway, and I know he really dug the soundtrack. He's in his early twenties, so I guess he graduated HS around 2000.

I don't know if these datapoints help or hurt your theories ...

High school class '87, reaction to Repo Man similar to yours.

That was me!

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