Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rock Bottom

My prayers to the gods of quality entertainment have been answered.

The Hollywood Reporter: "Rock of Ages" Falls Flat/6.16.12

I'd love to think that this will break the cultural curse that is Adam Shankman's career, but I doubt I'm that lucky or that Hollywood is that wise. Either way, maybe somebody somewhere will think twice the next time he or she gets the urge to green-light a movie that the director swears will be "a musical that guys will want to take their girls to!" or really anything that features Tom Cruise shirtless in leather pants, talking to a monkey and singing Glee-ified versions of shitty 80s rock songs.

Speaking of which, can we finally just admit that the 80s sucked and put to bed all that misguided nostalgia for it?


JohnF said...

The '80s did suck. I've been saying this forever. We lived through that shit. The music was largely awful. The fashions were a disaster. Hair was big, and not in a good way.
And the TV? Barf.

Rob said...

I find it more comforting that Adam Sandler's new movie bombed just as badly. Shankman might not make great movies, but he doesn't even register on my radar; Sandler, on the other hand, is just aggressively terrible.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I'll take the utterly ridiculous 80's over the hyper -serious self-flaggelation of the 90's. Its so easy to mock the obvious over-the-topness of A Flock of Seagulls, but I'll take "I Ran" over anything Alannis Fucking Morissette did. I'll bet Mike Score even knows what "ironic" actually means.

Anonymous said...

kanye said...

The '80s didn't suck.

Your '80s...the late-'80s...they sucked. The early '80s, however, kicked-ass.

A+ for the title, btw.

Eric said...

Theodore Sturgeon famously responded to someone who asked why so much science fiction was crap, "Ninety percent of everything is crap."

The ten percent in the eighties included essential work from Prince, Bruce Springsteen, The Police, U2, REM, et al. David Bowie's best album came out in 1980. New Wave was still going strong and was still awesome. Rap was in it's primacy and the late '80s saw Public Enemy and Beastie Boys release what are arguably their best records. The New Romanticism started great, though admittedly it ended badly. Goth, in it's 1.0 version, kicked ass and bore little resemblance to the emo tripe that's since appropriated the name.

All of which you know, Chez. I mean, come on, what was up with the crack about eighties music? Regulars know perfectly well you love quite a lot of it, including some of the acts and genres I just mentioned.

Stephen LaRose said...

There was some good music in the 1980s, but what's in Rock of Ages isn't it.

Chez said...

I've had to defend this belief before, Eric. There was absolutely some great stuff released in the 80s, but overall it wasn't a great era for music or culture. Yes, Prince was astonishing during that period and there were some spectacular punk, alt and new wave bands doing memorable work -- I take issue with PE not because they weren't excellent but because Fear of a Black planet was actually their best record and it was released in 1990 -- but again for the most part what dominated radio and the pop culture zeitgeist wasn't good at all. And certainly there should be zero nostalgia for the laugh-out-loud crap that was cock rock and hair metal -- like all genres they each had a few bands that were memorable but, come on.

Chez said...

Oh yeah, and the Beasties' best during that period was Paul's Boutique -- also released in 1990.

Eric said...

Paul's Boutique was released July '89: I actually fact-checked that one before posting because... well, because as someone who graduated high school in '90, there's a lot of music I tend to think of as being '88 or '89 that was really '90 or '91, and vice-versa; I imagine everyone knows how that goes.

I think reasonable minds can differ as to whether PE's best record was Fear Of A Black Planet ('90) or It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back ('88); they're both great records.

It may be my age speaking when I say the '80s gets a bad rap, but there it is. No, I can't defend the shit that was on the radio; it was a dark age for radio, actually, partly due to owner consolidation and the beginnings of the current format-oriented programming. But what wasn't on the radio was pretty amazing: in some ways, the early '80s particularly stand out as a really fecund period where a lot of artists were tearing down the last baggage the '60s had dragged into the '70s--

--okay, actually, this is where it gets complicated and you really can't lump things together by decade, a mistake we're probably both making. The reaction against what rock had turned into really began in the 1970s, or even the '60s if you consider Velvet Underground's records as planting the seeds. That plant ripened in the late '70s, which is really when the New Wave began, but the juiciest fruit ripened in the 1980s (e.g. Talking Heads best stuff comes to mind).

As for culture beyond music: I have to say that my gut agrees with you Chez, but the mind rebels. True, the American New Wave in cinema completely died in the 1980s, but the "lowbrow" blockbusters of the decade included masterpieces like Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. The arthouse stuff included Blue Velvet and Brazil. Looking at lit in Wikipdia, it isn't a spectacular list, though one of my favorite novels of all time (White Noise by Don De Lillo) was published in '85. Television was admittedly a wasteland.

What was terrible for me in the 1980s was Reaganism and the rise of evangelical politics. I remember spending a great deal of time worried about nuclear war, mad about families living in cars, and irritated that most of my hobbies were considered Satanic by sputtering jackasses. These things, I agree, make for some considerable deficits when judging the decade's culture. On the other hand, perversely, these things were exactly why some of the music was so great, for instance, because there were people railing against the classism and racism and petty arrogances in ways you don't hear nearly as much of anymore. I guess there's an irony there, that the reaction to the shittiness of much of culture in the era is why I'm not willing to write off the culture of the era.

I dunno. Every time I start to think culture sucked, I put URGH! A Music War in the DVD player and am amazed at what was boiling up from the underside. I'll leave it there, and apologies if I rambled.

JohnF said...

Of course there was some good stuff done in the '80s, just not nearly as much as people would have you believe.
Sure, you might be at a party and get a nostalgic thrill when "Come On, Eileen" starts playing, but it's not because the song's actually any good.
Any of the music that was good during this decade was good because the artists had made good stuff before, not because they were trying to fit in with the '80s aesthetic.

Chez said...

I was wrong about Paul's Boutique. My bad. You're always welcome to ramble, man, since what you have to say is always worth it. And you get bonus points both for mentioning URGH! and for using 'fecund' in a sentence.

VOTAR said...

I can't hate on the 80s. I consider that the decade when I was having the most fun in my entire life -- and yes that does take into consideration the weird detour from responsible behavior that was 1995 in its entirety.

The 80s for me were just plain fun. I didn't concern myself with whether the music I liked was intelligent enough or profound enough or whether I was part of the clique that "gets it" (arguably, for me that was what early 90s Seattle stuff was all about... I never cared for "punks" and their ironic air of entitlement, and I saw a lot of that same kind of "you wouldn't understand so don't bother" elitism in the fanbase of grunge).

The 80s were about house parties and bonfires and two-fisting 40 ounce Mickeys Fine Malt Liquor every night after school hanging out with my friends, and seeing shows like Devo, the Fixx, & Flock of Seagulls in little 1500 person capacity dance halls. It was innocent, colorful, and rambunctious fun. Then along came "metal" and hair bands, and to those of us who realized that it was all just vaudeville and theatrics, that too was tremendous fun. I don't remember there being much concern among my friends whether one band was better than another, it was all just loud obnoxious rock and we all enjoyed ourselves.

That having been said, the whole idea of this movie just sucks. To me it looks like a bunch of people who weren't there, playing dress-up. It's That 70's Show... something that to people who were actually alive then, is just posing. I know it's supposed to be deliberately campy, so I'm not missing the point. Metalocalypse is a deliberately campy sendup of death metal, but consider the contrast.

And BTW Eric, immense props to you for referencing Urgh!

warrenbishop said...

@Eric: I have to chime in here and say that Bowie's best album was not 'Scary Monsters'. I think "Low" and "Heroes" would have to be top two. You could debate which one is better, but those two are head and shoulders above 'Scary Monsters'.

(I would also argue those two were also hugely influential in a way 'Scary Monsters' was not)

BTW Take everything I just wrote with a huge grain of salt, all those releases (actually most of his work in the 70's was great) were fantastic. Debating which of those releases is better is like debating which Victoria's Secret model is the hottest. In the final analysis, they're all pretty hot.

Chez said...

I think the reason I'm so hostile toward this movie is that it represents such a massive leap of logic into the realm of utter bullshit on the part of what the director somehow sold a studio on -- namely that Rock of Ages would have widespread appeal instead of a very specific niche audience.

If anybody saw the painful featurette that ran before Prometheus in some markets, you'll know what I'm talking about. There's Adam Shankman with a big enthusiastic grin on his face actually saying that this was the perfect date movie and a musical that guys would actually be dragging their girls to. Nobody should've bought that line. Nobody. There isn't a self-respecting man in the world -- straight or gay -- who was going to see this fucking thing. Gay men who might like musicals don't give a crap about bad 80s rock and straight men who maybe liked bad 80s rock wouldn't be caught dead going to see a musical, particularly one that bastardizes the songs they ostensibly like. It was doomed from the start because it was never going to appeal to anyone but the demographic I mentioned quite a while back: sad 40-something women who feel nostalgia for that wretched period and who get all giddy when the Glee kids butcher another popular song.

This is why the pushed the movie so hard -- why they desperately tried to sell it as having mass appeal. Because in the end they probably knew there wasn't a chance in hell that was true.

Just some chick said...

As usual, Votar wins the internet.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with Eric. there was excellenct music in the 80's! Kate Bush released Hounds of Love, Scary Monsters by Bowie is from 1980, Cocteau Twins released Treasure and Blue Bell Knoll, Nothing's Shocking by Janes Addiction came out in 1988, Prince had at least 3 masterpieces released during that period, The Police had 3 others, hell even Men at Work had a good album!, Talk Talk released The Color Of Spring, Husker Due came out with New Day Rising, The Smiths had Stange Ways Here We Come, Pleased To Meet Me by the Replacements came out in 1987, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, REM, The Pixies, King Crimson, Kraftwerk, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, XTC, and even Guns And Roses released great albums, and i could go on, etc. etc..
as for movies, i'll just give a few examples: Blade Runner, Raising Arizona, Scarface, Cinema Paradiso, This Is Spinal Tap, The Untouchables, The Elephant Man, Brazil, The shinning, Blood Simple, Blue Velvet, The Killing Fileds, Raging Bull, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Do the Right Thing... all from the 80's. also it was the golden age of videoclips and MTV!
does Rock of Ages suck? probably (i haven't seen it, and i probably won't). i don't realy give a shit about TV, and i can't say much about litterature, although i did read some good books during that period, but to say that the 80's sucked in terms of music, or movies, or pop culture in general is not accurate at all. you get crap all the time, in any decade, in all shapes and kinds... just sift through it.

Anonymous said...

There's another Madagascar movie out?

Mary Beth said...

Last year I reviewed "Take Me Home Tonight" and said the same thing - the eighties sucked a lot. Or as they say in "Hot Tub Time Machine," "We had Reagan and AIDS."

I still love Raising Arizona, Blue Velvet, License to Ill, 1999, and guys in eyeliner (I CAN'T HELP THAT) but when things get rough, I ask myself, "Is Huey Lewis on the radio right now? Then it's all good."

pasta65 said...

Hearing Winger, Nightranger and Tiffany on the radio made me want to go to the shopping mall with a hunting rifle.

Listening to The Replacements kept me from killing people in the 80's

While there was some fantastic music made during that shitty decade.

The majority of what was played on the radio sucked.

Anonymous said...

Chez I want to take a slight issue with how you are describing the music, or at least the nostalgia factor for the 80's. I am attempting to paraphrase you and if I am wrong, I apologize.

Essentially you are saying that 1) While there is some decent music from the 80's, the vast majority of it was crap, 2) The stuff popular during the 80's was the absolute shit, thus showing that people during that era had little taste in music, and 3) nothing that the masses did, with their terrible taste, should be look towards with fondness.

I agree with this perspective except that this isn't unique with the 80's. If you look at the pop charts and record sales for any decade going back to the 50's, most of our most famous, dynamic, and wonderful music was initially displaced by really...REALLY shitty pop music.

People tend to forget how shitty things were...that ain't unique to 80's kids.

Unknown said...

People are nostalgic for their own past; the days when they first got drunk enough to puke, had sex in the back of cars, graduated high school, worked part-time at a shitty job with that guy who could always get his hands on acid...
If the soundtrack to those days sucked, then they will be nostalgic for music that sucks. They didn't develop taste in music with age, and the music didn't get any better, either. The majority of people always like music that sucks.
And now, the people that were 18 in 1982 are rolling through their forties. And perhaps that's the best thing about nostalgia: it gives you the opportunity to hate that shit all over again.