Love On The Shattered Lens: An Officer and a Gentleman (dir by Taylor Hackford)


Almost everyone knows that one scene from the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman.  You can probably guess which scene it is that I’m talking about.  It’s been parodied and imitated in so many other shows and movies that it’s one of those pop cultural moments that everyone has “seen” even they haven’t actually watched it.  It’s the scene where….

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

What?

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

I know, Mayo, I’m getting to that!  Let me tell everyone about the iconic factory scene first, okay?

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Uhmmm …. right.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, it’s the scene where Debra Winger is working in a factory and a youngish Richard Gere suddenly shows up and he’s wearing a white uniform and he picks her up and carries her out of the factory while all of her coworkers cheer.  Meanwhile, that Up Where We Belong song starts to play on the soundtrack.  Even though, up until recently, I had never actually sat down and watched An Officer and a Gentleman, I certainly knew that scene.

Last Friday, I noticed that I had An Officer and a Gentleman saved on the DVR and I thought to myself, “Well, I might as well go ahead and watch it and find out what else happens in the movie.”  Add to that, I only had three hours of recording space left on the DVR so I figured I could watch the movie and then delete it and free up some space….

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Goddammit, Mayo, be quiet!  I’m getting to it!

Anyway, I watched the film and I discovered that it’s actually about a lot more than just Richard Gere getting Debra Winger fired from her job at the factory.  It’s also about how Zack Mayo (the character played by Richard Gere) hopes to make something of himself by graduating from Aviation Officer Candidate School so that he can become not only a Navy pilot but also an officer and a gentleman.  His father (Robert Loggia) is an alcoholic, his mother committed suicide when Mayo was a child and Mayo …. well, I’ll let him tell you himself.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

That’s right.  Mayo has not got anywhere else to go.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Ain’t is not a word, Mayo.

As you may have already guessed, we know that Mayo doesn’t have anywhere else to go because there’s a scene where he continually yells, “I ain’t got nowhere else to go!” over and over again.  He yells it after being forced to do a thousand push-ups and sit-ups by his drill sergeant, Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.)  Foley thinks that Mayo doesn’t have the right attitude to be either an officer or a gentleman.  Mayo is determined to prove him wrong.

I AIN’T GOT–

Oh give it a rest, Mayo!

Debra Winger plays Paula.  Paula is a townie.  She lives in a dilapidated house with her parents.  Her friend, Lynette (Lisa Blount), dreams of marrying a Naval officer and getting to travel the world.  Lynette gets involved with Mayo’s friend, Sid Worley (David Keith).  Foley warns both Sid and Mayo to stay away from the townie girls because they’re not to be trusted.  That turns out to be true in Lynette’s case but Paula’s love provides Mayo with the strength that he needs to believe in something more than just himself.

I AIN’T–

Yes, you do have some place to go, Mayo!  That’s the point of the whole goddamn movie!

Anyway, watching An Officer and a Gentleman, I was kind of surprised to discover that it’s actually two movies in one.  It’s a traditional army training film, one in which Richard Gere is whipped into shape by a tough drill sergeant.  It’s also a film about life in an economically depressed small town, where the only hope of escape comes from marrying the right aviation officer candidate.  As a military film it’s predictable if occasionally effective.  As a film about small town life, it’s surprisingly poignant.  An Officer And A Gentleman doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to depicting just how little life in the town has to offer to people like Paula and Lynette.  They have spent their entire lives being told they can either work in a factory for minimum wage and get drunk on the weekend or they can land a man who will hopefully take them away from all that and give them something more to look forward to than cirrhosis of the liver.  Lynette has accepted that as being her only option.  While Paula dreams of escape, she dreams of escaping on her terms.  She may fall in love with Mayo but she’s not going to pretend to be someone that she’s not just to keep him around.

Though he’s evolved into a good character actor, Richard Gere was remarkably blank-faced when he was younger and his performance as Mayo alternates between being bland and shrill.  However, Debra Winger brings a welcome edge to her role.  She plays Paula as someone who knows she’s stuck in a dead end existence.  She’s not happy about it but, at the same time, she’s not going to surrender her principles in order to escape.  She holds onto her ideals, even though she appears to be stuck in a crappy situation and that’s something that Mayo learns from her.  In the end, Paula saves Mayo just as surely as the Navy does.  And, just as Paula saves Mayo, Winger saves the movie.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Oh, shut the Hell up, Mayo.  Go pick up Paula and carry her off to a better life….

4 Shots From 4 Films: Anaconda, The Devil’s Advocate, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1997 Horror Films

Anaconda (1997, dir by Luis Llosa)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997, dir by Taylor Hackford)

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, dir by Jim Gillepsie)

Scream 2 (1997, dir by Wes Craven)

Music Video of the Day: Take A Look At Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (1984, dir by Taylor Hackford)


On the one hand, I know that the critics have never exactly embraced the songs of Phil Collins.  I mean, there’s a reason why it’s such a brilliant joke that, in American Psycho, the vacuous wannabe serial killer Patrick Bateman is a rabid Phil Collins fan.  On the one hand, Collins’s music is representative of an era.  On the other hand, it’s often used to illustrate everything that was supposedly wrong with that era.

But you know what?

Screw it.  I like this song.  It’s effective.  It works.  It’s fun to listen to and I’ll probably find myself singing it sometime tonight.  Earlier, I watched a 1984 film called Against All Odds and, when this song played over the final freeze frame, it was a perfect moment.

The video for Take A Look At Me Now was directed by the same guy who directed Against All Odds, Taylor Hackford.  Of course, the video itself is mostly made up of clips from the film.  In between Phil doing his thing, we get scenes of Jeff Bridges looking young and sexy, Rachel Ward looking sultry, and James Woods looking dangerous.

The song itself was nominated for an Oscar, though it lost to I Just Called To Say I Love You from The Woman In Red.

Enjoy!

Insomnia File #33: The Comedian (dir by Taylor Hackford)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep around two in the morning last night, you could have turned over to Starz and watched the 2016 film, The Comedian.

It probably wouldn’t have helped.  It’s not that The Comedian is a particularly interesting movie or anything like that.  Abysmally paced and full of dull dialogue, The Comedian would be the perfect cure for insomnia if it just wasn’t so damn loud.  Robert De Niro plays an aging comedian named Jackie Burke and, in this movie, being an aging comedian means that you shout out your punch lines with such force that you almost seem to be threatening anyone who doesn’t laugh.  However, the threats aren’t necessary because everyone laughs at everything Jackie says.

Actually, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that everyone laughs.  In The Comedian, Jackie is such a force of pure, unstoppable hilarity that all he has to do is tell someone that they’re fat and literally the entire world will shriek with unbridled joy.  The thing with laughter is that, in the real world, everyone laughs in a different way.  Not everyone reacts to a funny joke with an explosive guffaw.  Some people chuckle.  Some people merely smile.  But, in the world of The Comedian, everyone not only laughs the same way but they also all laugh at the same time.  There’s never anyone who doesn’t immediately get the joke and, by that same token, there’s never anyone who can’t stop laughing once everyone else has fallen silent.  The Comedian takes individuality out of laughter, which is a shame because the ability to laugh is one of the unique things that makes us human.

Anyway, The Comedian is about a formerly famous comedian who is now obscure.  He used to have a hit TV show but now he’s nearly forgotten.  Why he’s forgotten is never made clear because nearly everyone in the movie still seems to think that he’s the funniest guy in the world.  Jackie’s an insult comic and people love it when he tells them that they’re overweight or when he makes fun of their sexual preferences.  This would probably be more believable if Jackie was played by an actor who was a bit less intense than Robert De Niro.  When De Niro starts to make aggressive jokes, you’re natural instinct is not so much to laugh as it is to run before he starts bashing in someone’s head with a lead pipe.

Anyway, the plot of the film is that Jackie gets into a fight with a heckler.  The video of the fight is uploaded to YouTube, which leads to a scene where his manager (Edie Falco) stares at her laptop and announces, “It’s going viral!”  Later on, in the movie, Jackie forces a bunch of old people to sing an obnoxious song with him and he goes viral a second time.  I kept waiting for a shot of a computer screen with “VIRAL” blinking on-and-off but sadly, the movie never provided this much-needed insert.

In between beating up the heckler, ruining his niece’s wedding, and hijacking a retirement home, Jackie finds the time to fall in love with Harmony Schlitz (Leslie Mann), a character whose name alone is enough to The Comedian one of the most annoying films of all time.  Harmony’s father is a retired gangster (Harvey Keitel) and you can’t help but wish that Keitel and De Niro could have switched roles.  It wouldn’t have made the movie any better but at least there would have been a chance of Keitel going batshit insane whenever he took the stage to deliver jokes.

I’m not sure why anyone thought it would be a good idea to cast an actor like Robert De Niro as a successful comedian.  It’s true that De Niro was brilliant playing a comedian in The King of Comedy but Rupert Pupkin was supposed to be awkward, off-putting, and not very funny.  I’m not an expert on insult comics but, from what I’ve seen, it appears that the successful ones largely succeed by suggesting that they’re just having fun with the insults, that no one should take it personally, and that they appreciate any member of the audience who is willing to be a good sport.  Jackie just comes across like a cranky old misogynist.  Watching Jackie is like listening to your bitter uncle play Vegas.  I guess it would help if Jackie actually said something funny every once in a while.  A typical Jackie joke is to refer to his lesbian niece as being a “prince.”  Speaking for myself, when it comes to Robert De Niro being funny, I continue to prefer the scene in Casino where he hosts the Ace Rothstein Show.

Perhaps the funniest thing about The Comedian is that, when it originally released into theaters, it was advertised as being “The Comedian, a Taylor Hackford film,” as if Taylor Hackford is some type of Scorsese-style auteur.  Taylor Hackford has been making films for longer than I’ve been alive and he has yet to actually come up with any sort of signature style beyond point and shoot.  The second funniest thing is that The Comedian was billed as a potential Oscar contender, up until people actually saw the damn thing.

Though it may have failed at the box office, The Comedian seems to show up on Starz quite frequently.  They always seem to air it very late at night, as if they’re hoping people won’t notice.  

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk

So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star: The Idolmaker, Breaking Glass, That’ll Be The Day, Stardust


So, you want to be a rock and roll star?  Then listen now to what I say: just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play.  And when your hair’s combed right and your pants fit tight, it’s gonna be all right.

If you need any more help, try watching these four films:

Idolmaker

The Idolmaker (1980, directed by Taylor Hackford)

The Idolmaker is a movie that asks the question, “What does it take to be a star?  Who is more interesting, the Svengalis or the Trilbys?”  The year is 1959 and Vinny Vacari (Ray Sharkey, who won a Golden Globe for his performance but don’t let that dissuade you from seeing the movie) is a local kid from New Jersey who dreams of being a star.  He has got the talent.  He has got the ambition and he has got the media savvy.  He also has a receding hairline and a face like a porcupine.

Realizing that someone who looks like him is never going to make hundreds of teenage girls all scream at once, Vinny instead becomes a starmaker.  With the help of his girlfriend, teen mag editor Brenda (Tovah Feldshuh) and a little payola, he turns saxophone player Tomaso DeLorussa into teen idol Tommy Dee.  When Tommy Dee becomes a star and leaves his mentor, Vinny takes a shy waiter named Guido (Peter Gallagher) and turns him into a Neil Diamond-style crooner named Cesare.  Destined to always be  abandoned by the stars that he creates, Vinny continually ends up back in the same Jersey dive, performing his own songs with piano accompaniment.

The Idolmaker is a nostalgic look at rock and roll in the years between Elvis’s induction into the Army and the British invasion.  The Idolmaker has some slow spots but Ray Sharkey is great in the role of Vinny and the film’s look at what goes on behind the scenes of stardom is always interesting.  In the movie’s best scene, Tommy performs in front of an audience of screaming teenagers while Vinny mimics his exact moments backstage.

Vinny was based on real-life rock promoter and manager, Bob Marcucci.  Marcucci was responsible for launching the careers of both Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte.  Marcucci served as an executive producer on The Idolmaker, which probably explains why this is the rare rock film in which the manager is more sympathetic than the musicians.

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Breaking Glass (1980, directed by Brian Gibson)

At the same time that The Idolmaker was providing American audiences with a look at life behind-the-scenes of music stardom, Breaking Glass was doing the same thing for British audiences.

In Breaking Glass, the idolmaker is Danny (Phil Daniels, who also starred in Quadrophenia) and his star is an angry New Wave singer named Kate (Hazel O’Connor).  Danny first spots Kate while she is putting up flyers promoting herself and her band and talks her into allowing him to mange her.  At first, Kate refuses to compromise either her beliefs or her lyrics but that is before she starts to get famous.  The bigger a star she becomes, the more distant she becomes from Danny and her old life and the less control she has over what her music says.  While her new fans scare her by all trying to dress and look like her, Kate’s old fans accuse her of selling out.

As a performer, Hazel O’Connor can be an acquired taste and how you feel about Breaking Glass will depend on how much tolerance you have for her and her music.  (She wrote and composed all of the songs here.)  Breaking Glass does provide an interesting look at post-punk London and Jonathan Pryce gives a good performance as a sax player with a heroin addiction.

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That’ll Be The Day (1973, directed by Claude Whatham)

Real-life teen idol David Essex plays Jim MacClaine, a teenager in 1958 who blows off his university exams and runs away to the Isle of Wright.  He goes from renting deckchairs at a resort to being a barman to working as a carny.  He lives in squalor, has lots of sex, and constantly listens to rock and roll.  Eventually, when he has no other choice, he does return home and works in his mother’s shop.  He gets married and has a son but still finds himself tempted to abandon his family (just as his father previously abandoned him) and pursue his dreams of stardom.

David Essex and Ringo Starr

Based loosely on the early life of John Lennon, the tough and gritty That’ll Be The Day is more of a British kitchen sink character study than a traditional rock and roll film but rock fans will still find the film interesting because of its great soundtrack of late 50s rock and roll and a cast that is full of musical luminaries who actually lived through and survived the era.  Billy Fury and the Who’s Keith Moon both appear in small roles.  Mike, Jim’s mentor and best friend, is played by Ringo Starr who, of all the Beatles, was always the best actor.

That’ll Be The Day ends on a downbeat note but it does leave the story open for a sequel.

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Stardust (1974, directed by Michael Apted)

Stardust continues the story of Jim MacClaine.  Jim hires his old friend Mike (Adam Faith, replacing Ringo Starr) to manage a band that he is in, The Straycats (which includes Keith Moon, playing a far more prominent role here than in That’ll Be the Day).  With the help of Mike’s business savvy, The Stray Cats find early success and are signed to a record deal by eccentric Texas millionaire, Porter Lee Austin (Larry Hagman, playing an early version of J.R. Ewing).

When he becomes the breakout star of the group, Jim starts to overindulge in drugs, groupies, and everything that goes with being a superstar.  Having alienated both Mike and the rest of the group, Jim ends up as a recluse living in a Spanish castle.  Even worse, he gives into his own ego and writes a rock opera, Dea Sancta, which is reminiscent of the absolute worst of progressive rock.  Watching Jim perform Dea Sancta, you understand why, just a few years later, Johnny Rotten would be wearing a homemade “Pink Floyd Sucks” t-shirt.

Stardust works best as a sad-eyed look back at the lost promise of the 1960s and its music.  Watch the movie and then ask yourself, “So, do you really want to be a rock and roll star?”

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Scenes I Love: An Officer and a Gentleman


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The latest “Scenes I Love” comes courtesy of An Officer and a Gentleman.

This ending sequence to the film has become an iconic scene when one talks about some of the best romantic scenes in film. The film itself was your modern take on the age-old two people from the wrong-sides of the track falling for each other.

The ending scene made the film memorable in the end. It helped that the song written and composed for the film, “Up Where We Belong,” and sung as a duet by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes became as big of a hit as the film itself.

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You know that a scene has become a cultural mainstay when The Simpsons did a parody of it which ended up being just as memorable as the original.

Up Where We Belong

Who knows what tomorrow brings
in a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
when it’s real I keep it alive the road is long
There are mountains in our way
but we climb the stairway every day

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world below up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to used to be
live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
all our lives out there to find
The road is long and there are moutains in our way
but we climb the stairway every day

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear wind blows

Time goes by no time cry
life’s you and I alive

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear winds blow

Love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear winds blow

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high