American Cinema of the 1980s: Themes and Variations (Screen Decades: American Culture/American Cinema)

American Cinema of the 1980s: Themes and Variations (Screen Decades: American Culture/American Cinema)

Stephen Prince

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0813540348

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

During the 1980s, American cinema underwent enormous transformations. Blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and The Empire Strikes Back grabbed huge revenues for the studios. At the same time, the growth of home video led to new and creative opportunities for independent film production, resulting in many of the decade's best films. Both large- and small-scale filmmakers responded to the social, political, and cultural conditions of the time. The two-term presidency of Ronald Reagan spawned a new Cold War with the Soviet Union, which Hollywood film both embraced and critiqued. Also during this time, Hollywood launched a long-awaited cycle of films about the Vietnam War, exploring its impact both at home and abroad. But science fiction remained the era's most popular genre, ranging from upbeat fantasies to dark, dystopic visions.

Bringing together original essays by ten respected scholars in the field, American Cinema of the 1980s examines the films that marked the decade, including Ordinary People, Body Heat, Blade Runner, Zelig, Platoon, Top Gun, Aliens, Blue Velvet, Robocop, Fatal Attraction, Die Hard, Batman, and sex, lies & videotape.

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family values. Chelsea’s suggestion that her father might value a son more than a daughter has to be counteracted if the film is to stay within its thematic boundaries; the fact that her breach of ideological etiquette is sharply corrected and enforced by a star as venerable as Katharine Hepburn shows the film as implicitly critical of Chelsea.6 The suggestion has been building that at age forty Chelsea is failing in her adulthood; divorced and about to remarry at the start of the film, she has no

enacted through scenes that transform a small group of teenagers into partisan resistance fighters, and in doing so the film attempts the daring feat of recuperating for the Right the figure of the heroic revolutionary freedom fighter. This was an icon that played a central role in sixties leftist mythology in the form of Che Guevara, the Viet Cong, and others, but which the Reagan administration was trying to seize for the Right in its attempt to present U.S.funded Nicaraguan terrorists as “freedom

decline that challenge and, in this filmmaker’s view, doom romance. Brundle’s deterioration has often been compared to disease (AIDS was a frequent reference), but the director sought a more universal expression of the limitations of desire. Cronenberg’s dread of the body engages serious emotions and gives his film a repellent power that earned accolades from the connoisseurs of horror. Late in the movie, Ronnie’s apprehension increases when she discovers that she is pregnant and wonders whether

deft mix of humor and pathos. Perspective changes as a particular character moves to the foreground for an episode only to recede in the next. The privileged figure wins our sympathy with voiceover musings revealing inner feelings, doubts, and desires. The film offers multiple perspectives on love—conjugal, illicit, sisterly, filial, between friends, of art— and love in its various stages—initiation, vicissitudes, breakdown, vicarious experience, and even its lingering memory. Mickey’s quest for

arriving, he comes across a severed human ear in a vacant field. After presenting it to the police department’s Detective Williams, Jeffrey cannot shake his curiosity. Encouraged by the detective’s attractive 1986 — MOVIES AND FISSURES IN REAGAN’S AMERICA 161 Kyle MacLachlan and Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (David Lynch, DEG), one of the decade’s most distinctive films, which draws a stark picture of evil in small-town America. Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store. teenage daughter, Sandy

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