Yakmala: Flashdance

The neck hole was that big for her giant ‘80s hair.

In 1983, everybody saw Flashdance. Fucking everybody. Well, not me, because I was too young, but everyone else. It captured the zeitgeist — hell, it created large chunks of it — of the transformation of the grimy early ‘80s into the recognizable neon-drenched hairpocalypse we all know and presumably love. I missed it, and then never got around to seeing it, especially as it dropped off the cultural radar and featured none of the things that normally get me to see movies: aliens, cyborgs, and baseball-playing clowns. When I finally sat down to watch it, I found out that it is completely bugfuck insane.

Tagline: Take your passion and make it happen!

More Accurate Tagline: Take your passion, and 33% of you will make it happen!

Guilty Party: Adrian Lyne directed this thing, and Joe Eszterhas wrote it. This is what happens when bad meets evil. Or, at least, when creepy uncle meets guy who drives an ice cream truck and doesn’t own pants. The only question here is, who is sleazier? According to the IMDB (which is never wrong), Lyne wanted the heroine to have a backstory that included her being molested. Eszterhas, finding the one part of his soul that wasn’t stained with the semen of runaways, objected. That’s right. Lyne beat Eszterhas in a good old-fashioned Sleaze-Off, which is the equivalent of beating Batman at anything.

Synopsis: Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a welder in Pittsburgh, which basically looks like Starling City before Ollie got back. While she spends her days in what might be a pipe-fitting plant (it’s never actually said), her mountains of hair just waiting to catch an unattended spark, she spends her nights at Mawby’s, a working class bar that somehow also hosts an avant-garde cabaret.

One night, while she does her routine in high heels and gets water dumped on her (if you’ve seen any shot from the movie, it’s that one), her boss Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri) catches sight of her and is instantly smitten. He begins to creepily stalk her, even following her home one night. He does this by driving literally three feet behind her while she bikes home, presumably to give her the sensation that she’s about to get run down at any second.

Nick used to date Dennis Weaver.

Oh yeah, Alex is supposed to be 18. Actor Michael Nouri was 37. So, yeah, her 20-years-older boss is hunting her like the last white tiger.

Alex wants to become a full-time dancer at the ballet. Which is just… seriously? She doesn’t do a single bit of ballet. Not at any point in the whole movie. Sure, ballet is dancing, but so is b-boying, which she does more of than ballet.

This idea, of working-class dreamers, is what could loosely be called a theme in the movie. Other than Alex, there are a couple others who follow their dreams sort of. First, her friend Jeanie, who waitresses at Mawby’s and wants to become a figure skater. Then there’s Jeanie’s boyfriend, short order cook and virulent racist Richie, who wants to be a comedian. While Jeanie flames out at a performance, Richie actually leaves for LA at one point, only to come back like a scene later, having failed. Which, glad we took the screentime for that. Richie’s act entirely consists of Polish insults. Richie is a man of deep, unexamined hatred.

There’s also an evil strip club called Zanzibar’s, which is like down the street from Mawby’s or something. Run by Johnny C. (Lee Ving, who you know from either Clue or the punk band Fear), he sleazes around trying to recruit Alex and Jeanie to dance. While he’s the closest thing the movie has to a bad guy, he’s pretty much the perfect stand in for Lyne and Eszterhas. He manages to get Jeanie after her disastrous skating incident, but Alex pulls her out of there.

Alex’s romance with Nick never stops being creepy, either. Eventually, someone checks their watch, realizes we’re about at the ninety minute mark, and decides to wrap this thing up. Nick gets Alex an audition with the ballet, she flips out on him for pulling strings but goes anyway. At the audition she literally does every kind of dance other than ballet, and gets in. And her dance double (and her jumping double, and her breakdancing double) are all really obvious. Roll credits.

I seriously have no fucking idea what happened.

Life-Changing Subtext: If you want to get ahead in this life, you have to date the boss.

Defining Quote: Alex: “Did you know that the smallest penis ever measured was 1.1 inches?”
Johnny C.: “You are some pair of cunts, you know that?”

Joe Eszterhas, ladies and gentlemen!

Standout Performance: Cynthia Rhodes plays Tina Tech, one of the other dancers at Mawby’s. About 95% of her dialogue is her just ranting about whether or not “he’ll call.” I might be out on a limb here, but I’m fairly certain Joe Eszterhas has no fucking idea of what women might say to each other. Rhodes is positioned as a plucky best friend, and since the comic relief is Richie — who’s about as funny as a blitzkrieg — she ends up getting more laughs. So, like, one. One half of a laugh.

What’s Wrong: The initial cut of the movie was something like two hours and twenty minutes. The studio heads and the time, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, insisted it be cut down to the theatrical running time of 95 minutes. While this is good for my sanity, the plot was one of the things that got cut out. (Or not, it’s possible there never was a plot and I’m desperately trying to find sanity that was never there at any stage.) Lyne and Eszterhas looked to be making some kind of epic about dreams. What they got was a haphazard collection of scenes. Granted, those scenes are pretty terrible, but maybe they would make more sense in context. Pretty sure a director’s cut of this movie would violate the Geneva Convention, though.

Flash of Competence: The soundtrack is excellent. If you like early-‘80s cheese you can dance to, it doesn’t get much better.

Best Scenes: On a date with Nick, it’s abundantly clear Alex has never even seen a lobster before. She eats this thing like a goddamn caveman.

Also, she doesn’t know how shirts work.

Earlier in the film, she takes Nick back to her place. It’s a cathedral-like loft space that could comfortably fit literally every human being we see in the movie. This is when she puts on a sweatshirt, and in front of Nick (who can be seen physically resisting the urge to go “huminahumina”), she whips her bra off underneath it. This whole time, she’s got her legs spread, with only the sweatshirt blocking Nick’s view of her kidneys. It seems like it’s supposed to be her unconcerned with showing off her body, since she does it at Mawby’s, but it comes off like a young woman entirely unaware of sexuality driving a (much) older man crazy. In other words? Gross.

Transcendent Moment: Any time one of the dancers at Mawby’s takes the stage, the movie jumps tracks into delirious insanity. I don’t know what these women think is sexy, but it can best be described as “non-Euclidean.” These performances are really only dances in the loosest definition of the word, the way sulfuric acid is, technically, a “beverage.” These women get on stage to exorcise the gibbering demons that haunt them every time they close their eyes. And people wonder why Zanzibar’s is popular.

An unaltered still from one such performance. Yep, an evil clown who lives in graph paper.

In a final bit of madness, apparently David Cronenberg was offered the chance to direct. There is no word for how excited I would be to see that version of the movie. “The flesh… the flesh compels me to dance…” In the meantime, all we have is this oddity from the early ‘80s, proving people were much weirder back then.

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Tread Who Perilously Series 2: Episode 2

Erik and Justin continue their travels through time with a stop in that most dire of eras, early 80s England. Justin discovers what happens when the Doctor wears decorative celery and Erik recalls the number of script editors who passed on today’s story, “Time-Flight.” Fashions are discussed, technobabble is vomited by the players and Justin re-orders his “Worst of Who” list. The Master continues to be ill-served and Erik tries to defend Peter Davison as one thing becomes clear: Justin hates producer John Nathan-Turner.

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New Satellite Show Episode 27: Justin Saw Ant Man

TSSiconThe group discusses the new Marvel film as Justin declares that he has seen “Ant Man” to everyone’s disbelief. Rob stops by to discuss the “In Your Faith” panel at Comic-Con. Erik also tries to talk about the Klingon Lifestyles Presentation. A return to Denmark is aborted and Justin reveals his displeasure with “Ready Player One.” This month’s Yakmala film is “Superman III.” Host: Erik. Panel: Rob, Bryn, Clint, Justin.

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Yeah, Leave It Here – Ep 4: Ever After

It was a little late coming, but welcome to Episode 4 of “Yeah, Leave It Here.” Today’s movie is 1998’s Ever After. Listen as we discuss such diverse topics as British accents, wall tennis, and Elizabeth Taylor’s “White Diamonds.” Also, we insult the Belgians.

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Lifetime Theater: Seeds of Yesterday

I get obsessed with strange things. What usually starts as an ironic interest, say, in Scandinavian symphonic metal or Stephenie Meyer’s four book treatise on the desirability of an abusive relationship, can sometimes morph into, if not sincere admiration, something approaching bemused appreciation. No, this is not my long-winded way of telling you all I’ve turned the corner and am now Team Edward. I’ve aimed a little higher in my obsessions: noted Southern Gothic madwoman VC Andrews.

It’s probably unfair to compare Andrews and Meyer, but people loved comparing Twilight to Hunger Games and Harry Potter and that never felt entirely fair either. I kind of lump them together in the sense that in my generation, the Dollanganger books were the reading material of choice for young women on the cusp of puberty the same way the Twilight books were for a generation or two later. And yes, I’m saying this makes my generation objectively better. Suck it, time.

This week, I’m reviewing the final installment of Lifetime’s Dollanganger adaptations. It’s not quite with a heavy heart, but I’m not ready to leave these behind. I just love these Aryan crazies and their no-boundary households. Sadly, Lifetime chose not to adapt the final book in the series, Garden of Shadows, which is the gritty origin story of Ellen Burstyn’s character from Flowers in the Attic. I like to think this was an artistic decision, as Garden was written either partially or entirely by her long term ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman after Andrews died the previous year. Andrews has put out more posthumous material than Tupac.

The VC Andrews of rap.

The reality, that Lifetime wasn’t getting the ratings it wanted, is probably closer to the truth. This is a real shame because Seeds of Yesterday is the best installment since Petals on the Wind. How does it achieve this lofty praise? Why, being fucking insane from front to back.

All artistic pretense is gone from the series by now. Chris and Cathy are portrayed by the same actors as If There Be Thorns, making these two the only ones to reprise those two roles. The rest of their kids have been aged up. Jory is now the perfect golden boy, the toast of the New York ballet, and married to ballerina Melodie. Bart is a creepy businessman, who spends most of the movie doing an impression of a sociopathic version of Christian Grey. So, you know, Christian Grey. Lastly, adopted daughter Cindy has grown into a babyfaced sexpot, which is just as creepy as it sounds. Seriously, the actress looks like some unholy combination of a heavily made up baby and a real doll. Naturally, Bart wants to fuck her. Bad.

But Bart is also super duper religious. All that stuff from John Amos has really made an impact. He idolizes Malcolm, complete with glowering portrait on the mantel (sadly, at no point are the eyes replaced by real ones), a name change to Bart Foxworth, and a combination of loathing for the family’s incestuous path and his weird conception (remember, Cathy conceived him in an adulterous revenge-affair with Corrine’s husband), and an Oedipal Complex deluxe. He spends every scene eye-fucking someone, usually either his mom or his sister. Which, ironically enough, makes him the perfect Dollanganger.

The plot kicks off when everyone comes home to a rebuilt Foxworth Hall for Bart’s birthday and to read Corrine’s will. Tragedy strikes almost immediately, like it’s hiding the bushes or something. Jory gets paralyzed in a ballet accident (seriously), and Bart waits about half a minute before sleeping with a pregnant Melodie. She pops out some twins and leaves, mostly because she can’t stand Jory anymore. All Jory does is complain that he can’t dance, or make love to his wife… in those exact words, multiple times. Maybe she got tired of that conversation. He attempts suicide and fails, which can’t be good on the ego, but then again, he didn’t try by dancing or making love to his wife.

Anyway, Jory hires a nurse to help him and the newborn twins. Bart pretty much instantly seduces her too. This guy, I swear. He’s all upset that he’s not getting his full inheritance at 25 and has to wait another ten years. Corrine even included a provision that if he’s institutionalized, he gets nothing. The Dollangangers are continually teetering on the edge of madness, so it’s a legitimate threat. Bart basically vacillates between trying to fuck Cindy and ranting about the sinfulness of everyone around him. It’s charming as hell.

Really, everyone comes off like they just went off their meds. Everyone. Anyone even tangentially related to the Dollangangers goes a little bugfuck. It’s like the makers of the movie realized they were making a soap opera — granted one with a literary pedigree — and then based every scene exclusively on outtakes of Tootsie. The alternate title of this is Mood Swings.

Chris dies in a throwaway scene, getting smooshed by a car after stopping to help a stranded motorist. This is how little the movie cares for one of the main characters of the entire series. “Hey, what should we do with Chris?” “I dunno… fuck it, car accident.” And before you point out the symbolic echo, since the entire plot kicked off when Chris’s father died in a car crash, fuck you. VC Andrews fucking loves car accidents. If she could have figured out a way to get an out-of-control semi into that attic, that’s how Cory would have bought it. Now I want to pitch Fast and Furious: Dollanganger Drift.

The movie is so insane that the fact Bart and Cindy wind up as married televangelists counts as a happy ending. Yeah, I was really concerned that the creepy misogynist philanderer wasn’t going to end up okay, but now I know he’s bilking old people out of their savings. The final scene has Cathy heading up to the attic again, because why not. She can hang out there. It’s not like she doesn’t know the space.

So what did we learn? If your son starts dressing like Christian Grey and talking like Rick Santorum, you’ve got problems. Always check the set before putting on a ballet performance. And never, ever drive anywhere.

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Tread Who Perilously Series 2: Episode 1

whoErik and Justin return for a second series through time and space with Paul McGann’s only full-length outing as the Doctor, 1996’s “Doctor Who: The TV Movie.” Justin discovers what happens when the Doctor finds himself in a backdoor pilot for Fox. Eric Roberts hams it up as the Master and we dissect why this is pilot failed to bring “Doctor Who” to the US. McGann’s Doctor becomes a favorite and the TARDIS console room is a highlight. Justin takes a quiz on the vital Time Lord plot points in the movie and Erik recalls the time when it seemed there would never be more “Doctor Who” on TV.

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In Your Faith: Episode 3 – Sunday Morning Funny

RECORDED LIVE AT COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: SAN DIEGO! The full panel audio of our 2015 appearance at SDCC! Marvel as Adam discusses the legacy of Jack Chick! Witness Justin Robinson acquire the power to command boars! Thrill as Reverend John Polite finds the lighter side of faith-based comics! Our discussion of Christian comics takes us through the works of Jack Chick and Al Hartley, but it will hardly be the last time we discuss the topic. Moderator: Jessica Tseang. Panel: Rob, Erik, Justin, Clint. Special Guests: Adam Sand, Nick Marino and Reverend John Polite.

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