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How To Make a Stupid 80’s Movie

How To Make a Stupid 80’s Movie

Once the 80’s misfit teenager ranged far and free across the American landscape. from John Cusack to Molly Ringwald, if you could pretend you were a high school outcast who had big dreams and a desire to win you were on top of the world.
However, I’ve noticed that ever since 1989 people have stopped making stupid 80’s teenager movies. Oh sure, people tried to make a similar film in the 90’s, movies like Chasing Amy and Mallrats, but these movies didn’t have the same flair, the same élan, or the same bone-headedness of the classic 80’s film. To help remedy this situation and to inspire all the budding filmmakers with a desire to make something truly brain-dead I humbly offer this guide to making stupid 80’s movies.

Stick to the Recipe

To make a stupid 80’s movie you have to stick to the recipe. If your main character isn’t a high school student having a hard time fitting in your movie will fail. If the parents in the movie have brains, or even anything resembling a serious part in the film people will suspect your masterwork of being something introspective or even deep, and nobody wants that. No, like a great sonnet, you must work within the framework, and only use the plot elements that have been so well-tested over the years. Specifically:

High School Students

Even if your main actors are old enough to be PhD candidates, you need to portray them in high school. And not just any high school. Your 80’s movie high school is covered in graffiti, the halls perpetually packed with an assortment of punks (colorful hair), preppies(colorful sweaters draped over their shoulders) and jocks (wearing team colors, of course). If anyone is not wearing bright colors they will be your nerds. They must laugh at space jokes, wear brown pants above their navels, and be generally looked upon with either scorn or pity, depending on the character looking upon them.
Against this backdrop you will place your protagonist. If male, your protagonist will wear a tie that is less than 2 inches wide at its widest point and a sports jacket. If female, your protagonist’s hair must be no less than 3 inches taller than her actual skull. In terms of wardrobe you have more freedom with a female lead, but remember that she has to clean up nicely for the big dance, where she will wear something with shoulder pads that would frighten a linebacker.
Your antagonist may be one of the following: The school administration, the jock boyfriend of your male protagonist’s love interest, or the preppie ice queen that actively seeks to destroy your female protagonist’s dreams of finally being socially accepted.

The Dilemma

Again, your dilemma is tightly proscribed, and must fit within the high school milieu. Perhaps your main character needs a date to the prom, or maybe they will be denied some life goal if they don’t get their grades in line by the end of the semester. Either way, your protagonist must solve this problem within one week, two at the outside.
Once you have truly mastered the art of stupid 80’s movies you may consider the third-party dilemma. This is where the romantic interest has a problem and the protagonist must help them solve it, usually in a way that would make no sense at all. Saving an old house from being torn down by winning a boat race, for example. The third-party dilemma gives you more room to experiment, but also walks the line between stupid 80’s movie and standard romantic comedy, and should be used sparingly.

The Cast

While your main couple are fine and all, you can’t really have a stupid 80’s movie without a good supporting cast. Your main character’s best friend, for example, will often define the tone of the movie, and should get the lion’s share of the memorable lines. There should be a younger brother who is either silent and brilliant, or insanely talkative and vapid. In either case the younger brother will be obsessed with finding an attractive female companion. His success in this endeavor is immaterial, so long his antics are sufficiently comic.
It is not uncommon for the love interest to already be romantically involved with someone at the beginning of the movie, and that someone should be an intensely shallow, self-centered icon. Male or female, they should wear pink and have blond hair. You may worry that the audience won’t accept the fact that your love interest, whom you have written as a sensitive, intelligent, and caring person, has willingly paired off with such a dud. For the most part, as long as the romantic interest ends up with your protagonist all will be forgiven, but if you feel the need to have the romantic interest explain their choice, the standard “[He/She] used to be different, before [he/she] became head of the [basketball team/cheerleading squad]” formula is sufficient.

The Music

The music in a stupid 80’s movie should be from the 80’s, of course, and no pains should be spared to emphasize the 80’s-ness of it. Any piece that doesn’t have a synthesizer should be rejected out of hand. Themes ranging from new love to lost love may be used. At some point, usually at the prom, there should be a live band, who should endeavor to look as Californian as possible. Brightly colored suits with white loafers are acceptable. There should be two keyboards on stage, a Roland and a Yamaha. If you have a female singer in your live band she should look as much like Cindi Lauper as your budget allows.

Product Placement

Speaking of your budget, a large portion of your production budget can be covered by a few well-placed pizza boxes or soda cans. There’s no reason to write the names of these products into your script–that would be too obvious–but any time a group of friends is gathered to celebrate some minor success be sure that they do so with Coca-Cola and Pizza Hut. Particularly savvy producers can even get either Roland or Yamaha to pay for the Cindi Lauper impersonator, but be aware that they will ask for a long keyboard solo in the middle of your dramatic-conflict-resolution-at-the-dance scene.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to making quickly forgotten teen movies like a pro. Join us next time when we take a look at making nightmare-inducing children’s fantasy movies using rubber masks and puppets.

Ten Years

Ten Years

On this day ten years ago I was trying to get to class when the sky started falling. Class was let out early, and I called my fiancé, who was staying with her parents until our wedding day on September 21st. School was let out and I went up from Provo to Salt Lake City to be with the person I wanted to spend my entire life with, in case that life were somehow to be cut short, even in our remote area. The sky in SLC was clear and warm, and it was easy to forget that we were being attacked on our own soil by people desiring nothing but destruction. It would have been easy to forget, but you were there. You know there was nothing else on your mind that day either.

My story doesn’t end with loved ones getting killed in those planes or buildings, I don’t know that hurt, and there’s no way I could understand it, nor can I understand how those who carry that burden deal with it. Nor do I understand the kind of feelings or thoughts that would drive someone to that kind of action. But here’s something else:

May 1st, 2001: I was flying west from Louisville Kentucky to Salt Lake City Utah, getting ready to attend BYU. Catching my connecting flight from Cleveland I was seated next to a girl about my age (Twenty-three at the time) or perhaps a bit younger. She was wearing blue jeans, a shirt of some kind (I’m terrible at colors and fabrics and all that) and a hijab (I think, I had to look that up on Wikipedia just now). We exchanged greetings before take off and readied all our personal stuff…the usual boring stuff.

After the plane was in the air I asked where she was headed, a question that always seems really stupid when your sitting next to each other in an airplane. But she was continuing on to California. She asked me the same question and I said I was staying in Utah. The inevitable follow up was “Are you a Mormon?” I said yes, I was and she said “Oh. I guess we’re like, cousins, or something then.”

This next paragraph took about half a second to go through my head. I considered what I knew of Islam. I knew that the Prophet Muhammad lived in the 1400’s or thereabouts, that they were monotheists, believed the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Quran, which according to their faith is the pure word of God revealed to His Prophet, whereas I had just spent two years teaching similar things about the Book of Mormon. They practiced fasting, alms-giving, and daily prayer, all things that my own faith taught as well.  While I wouldn’t have ever stated that Mormonism and Islam were “cousins” the way she did, I couldn’t deny the parallels.

Like I said, I went through all that in about half a second. “sure,” I said, and we talked about our respective religions a little bit. Not a whole lot, and I definitely don’t remember every word we said now, but it was all friendly and respectful.

The flight was booked full, and we were flying economy class. We had picked up or food from a cooler on the way onto the plane, and the two of us ate ours at the same time. Inspecting the contents, she looked a meat snack, and said, “Yeah, pork. I can’t eat this. Do  you want it?” I said sure, then pulled the soda out of my bag. “Hmm. Caffeine. I can’t drink this. Do you want it?” she took my cola, I took her snack and we both laughed a little bit. We weren’t the same, but it was nice for both of us to be able to just be who we were without worrying that the other one would mock us for it.

Anyway, a few months later, as we watched in terror and fear, I thought back to that girl on the plane, who, I was sure, had nothing to do with the insanity in the sky and was, I was certain, as horrified and disgusted as I was. I hoped that she had people to turn to during the coming months, as she would, through no fault of her own, be under suspicion. I hoped the people around her would be kind and treat her well during a time that was probably more hurt-filled and confusing for her as it was for me.

I hope the last ten years have been a time of healing for all of us. I hope that those who lost someone in the attacks have found some answers and hope and a way to go on. I hope that those who had to watch while their faith was held up as a reason to commit atrocities have found understanding and support in the people around them. I hope all of us have found a desire to move forward together.

The Enduring Emotion

The Enduring Emotion

Some years ago I was hiking out of the Grand Canyon with some friends. We left late at night and hiked in the dark to avoid the heat. It had been raining, there had been lightning storms and I was basically sick and tired of the elements trying to kill me. Suddenly, there was the sound you don’t want to hear when you’re hiking up a slot canyon: rushing water.

We all realized what that meant at the same time, and scrabbled for higher ground before the flash flood came down on top of us. I had been hurting, worried, tired, but at that moment I was just flat out scared. Everything else was lost as I tried to get out of the way.1

When my wife and I were first dating, I scheduled a little trip for us up to Boise, where I was secretly planning to propose. The day before we left, she called me up.

“I’m thinking that, when we’re in Boise, You’re going to ask me to marry you.” She said. “And I’m thinking I’ll say yes.”

I nearly fell over, my joy was overwhelming. The fact that my little proposal was now somewhat less than a formality was not important, what was important is that she was willing to spend her life with me.

So here’s the point. I’m no longer afraid of that flash flood. I still feel the joy I felt in that moment when my wife agreed to become my wife, but now it’s a low, warm, permanent glow, instead of an explosion. But there’s one emotion that seems to stay as strong as the moment it happened: Embarrassment.

That time I … nope, not even on a blog that I know for a fact nobody reads, I can’t say it. That time I embarrassed myself back in high school still stings, still hits me like a hammer when I think of it, even though it’s been well over a decade since it happened.

Why is this? Joy, anger, fear, happiness, they all fade after a while. More basic feelings like hunger, exhaustion, and pain pretty much go away when the biological trigger is removed. Why doesn’t embarrassment? Is there some biological imperative that we keep being almost physically hurt by things that, in the final analysis, didn’t actually damage us?

I don’t have a real thesis for this one; I’m just wondering. If you happen across this article and have an opinion I’d love to hear it. Maybe someone even knows how to get rid of the feeling.

Or maybe everyone else already knows the secret and I’m the only one still in the dark. That would be embarrassing.

  1. For the record, the flash flood ended up being about six inches deep. But that’s not the point. []
Hello world!

Hello world!

Okay, I finally did it. I moved my personal blog over to WordPress. Because, while the RapidWeaver site was pretty it was no fun to have to be tied to that computer to do my updates.  So now, a grand new world of  NateDickson.com! Now (Hopefully) with updates!

Why another Blog?

That’s a fair question. I have Coals[2]Newcastle for serious programming stuff, and Crazy Apple News Site for all my silly news I make up about macs.  So why this? Why the sudden narcissism? Do you know how hard that word is to spell?

This blog is for all the stuff that isn’t technology.  I do other things, you know! Things like having kids. Or hiking. Or having kids. Or going to church. Or roleplaying.  So this is for all that stuff.  It’s cleaner than Facebook, more intelligent than Twitter, and just as self-absorbed as either.  So that’s why this is here. Why you are here is anyone’s guess.

Thanks for stopping by, though!