Saturday, April 11, 2009


Nostalgia's Not What It Used to Be

I've been rewatcing some old movies I saw and liked years, no, decades ago, some by Truffault, one by Katherine Bigalow, and they really suck now. What's up with that? Was I naive and foolish back then, easy to please, or were they good back then but hackneyed and bad compared to more recent things? That last possibility would necessitate the belief that things are better now, and although I believe that generally, I'm not ready to say it's so for movies. So I'm trying an experiment. Here are the top ten episodes of Miami Vice as I remember them from the 80s. I'll rewatch them and report back.

1. Definitely Miami. This is the best by a large margin. It tells two good stories interspersed with no fat or filler. Minimum screen presence of Philip Michael Thomas. Ted Nugent is good playing himself (not everyone can do it), and Arielle Dombasle is beautiful and compelling. Albert Hall, the chief of the patrol boat in Apocalypse Now, is terrific as the representative of our federal government here to screw things up. Effective use of Cry by Godley and Creme at the end, and with a good dose of Europa by Gato Barbieri.

2. Calderon's Return--The Hit List. Best draw and double tap ever recorded, by the never seen again Jim Zubiena. Heartbreak as Sonny's estranged, but still in love with him, wife is almost drawn back into the life. Effective music includes Tush by ZZ Top and I'm so Excited by the Pointer Sisters. They take out the funny looking captain of the squad, Gregory Sierra, so they can replace him with the laconic Edward James Olmos. Good move.

3. Smuggler's Blues. Not only does this have the iconic song by Glenn Fry but Glenn Fry stars in it, although his acting chops are on par with Phillip Michael Thomas.

4. Out Where the Busses Don't Run. The best thing about this episode is the over the top performance of Bruce McGill (D-Day in Animal House) although David Straithairn is good in smaller portions and Little Richard turns out to be a better actor that Phillip Michael Thomas, but then again, who isn't?

5. Evan. I don't know why William Russ never became more famous, but his character here, calling everyone Buckwheat, is proof that he was robbed if he sold his soul to the Devil to be famous. He's great. The story about guilt and inability to accept homosexuality is psychologically plausible and even compelling (although old hat in our modern times).

6. Prodigal Son. A two parter in New York. I can't recall any of the story line other than Penn Jillett takes a round to the forehead, but the songs, including a Fry lesser number and Take Me Home by Phil Collins, are good.

7. Calderone's Return--Calderone's Demise. The action is only OK but the opening and closing songs, Voices by Russ Ballard and What's Love Got to Do With It? by Tina Turner are superb against the cigarette boat going full airborn as it speeds over 4 foot chop towards the Bahamas and back. Phillip Michael Thomas actually looks completely sea sick in the cockpit of the boat, some of his best method acting in the series.

8. No Exit. The highlight of this episode is a very young Bruce Willis playing a very bad guy convincingly. The story is good and the main song, I Don't Care Anymore, by Phil Collins, is perfectly matched to the mood and action.

9. Back in the World. The story is a bit too complicated for 41 minutes but it makes up that shortcoming with an all Doors soundtrack and a good guest cast, except for Iman, Bob Balaban, a young and very attractive Patti D'Arbaniville, and G. Gordon Liddy, a great addition to the all felon actor's team. This episode shows the power of the Vietnam Urban Myth more recently repeated in American Gangster.

10. Trust Fund Pirates. This episode creeps into the last slot based on the guest acting by a very young Richarde Belzer, Tommy Chong and Gary Cole, who was so good lately as the faux sportscaster in Dodgeball. I think they were good pirates, like Sir Francis Drake, but that's near heresy now.

Some of the near honorable mentions include Red Tape (early Viggo Mortensen), Lend Me an Ear, and the Pilot.


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