Scenes That I Love: The Opening of Staying Alive

We’re still in the process of recovering from last week’s winter storm down here and I have to admit that, for me personally, it’s been a bit of a struggle to actually maintain my focus.  Last week’s combination of power outages and freezing weather threw me off of my usual rhythm and I’m still getting it back.

Fortunately, I have a little help from my friends.  Earlier tonight, a group of us watched the 1983 film, Staying Alive.  Staying Alive is the somewhat notorious sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  If Saturday Night Fever was actually a dark and gritty coming-of-age story disguised as a crowd-pleasing musical, Staying Alive is …. well, it’s something much different.  It’s a film about dancing and Broadway, directed and at least partially written by Sylvester Stallone.  Why exactly would anyone think that Sylvester Stallone was the right director to make a movie about dancing and Broadway?  Your guess is as good as mine but, in the end, the important thing is that Stallone wrote a key supporting role for his brother, Frank Stallone.  Frank not only performs several songs but he proves that he can glare with the best of them.

As for the film itself, it opens with Tony Manero (John Travolta) having left behind Brooklyn and the world of disco.  Now, he lives in Manhattan, he teaches a dance class, he humiliates himself looking for an agent, and he’s struggling to make it on Broadway.  (Basically, he’s turned into Joey from Friends.)  When Tony’s lucky enough to get cast in a lavish musical called Satan’s Alley, Tony has a chance to become a star but only if he can …. well, I was going to say control his ego but actually, his ego isn’t that much of a problem in Staying Alive.  Actually, there’s really nothing standing in Tony’s way, other than the fact that — in Staying Alive as opposed to Saturday Night Fever — he’s portrayed as kind of being an irredeemable idiot.  If Saturday Night Fever was all about revealing that Tony was actually smarter and more sensitive than he seemed, Staying Alive seems to be all about saying, “Whoops!  Sorry!  He’s just as obnoxious as you thought he was.”

Staying Alive is a notoriously ill-conceived film, though it’s also one of those films that’s just bad enough to be entertaining when viewed with a group of snarky friends.  That said, the opening credits montage — which features Tony dancing while Kurtwood Smith glares at him — is actually pretty good.  Travolta smolders with the best of them and the sequence does a good job of capturing Tony’s mix of desperation and determination.  It’s unfortunate that Kurtwood Smith pretty much disappeared from the film following the opening credits.  Judging from what little we see of him, Smith would have been pretty entertaining as a permanently annoyed choreographer.  Finally, how can you not love the neon credits?  This a scene that screams 80s in the best possible way.

So, while I continue to work on getting back to my usual prolific ways, why not enjoy this scene that I love from Staying Alive?

Artwork of the Day: Off Limits (by George Gross)

by George Gross

This is from 1953.  As you can tell from reading the cover’s blurb, this is a novel about the “The Guys, The Dames, The Joints, The Creeps Who Surround Our Army Camps And Prey On Our Soldiers.”  On the cover, you can see one of “the dames” distracting two soldiers on a street corner.  There’s no way that those men are going to be able to win their shooting game with a woman standing ten feet away from them.

(I showed this cover to Lisa and she said, “He’s probably just surprised to see his mom in the city.”)

This cover was done by George Gross.  Gross’s work has been featured many times on this site and will probably be featured many more times in the future.

Music Video Of The Day: Real World by Matchbox Twenty (1998, directed by Matthew Rolston)

I don’t know if you can get more 90s than with this video, which features Rob Thomas leading a camel through a bowling alley and then becoming a news anchorman while his bandmates do things like sell steak from an ice cream truck, work as a waitress, and appear in cereal commercials.

You can debate what all of the symbols mean.  I suspect that it doesn’t mean much at all.  This song and video were very popular when I was in high school but even then when we all secretly suspected that the way Rob Thomas sang, “head honcho,” would seem progressively less cool over time.

This is one of the many videos to be directed by Matthew Rolston.  He’s also done videos for everyone from Jennifer Love Hewitt to Jewel to Jessica Simpson to David Bowie and Seal.  You know that video for Kiss From A Rose that doesn’t feature any clips from Batman Forever?  That was Rolston.