Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to School

You know who never got any respect back in the ‘80s no matter how hard he tried? Robert Downey Jr, that’s who. If there’s anything the recent success of the Marvel (Film) Universe has taught us, it’s that all those horrendous Marvel movies of the ‘80/90s never happened, including this visionary Year One look back at Tony Stark’s early college days. So, sit back and prepare to get uncomfortable. Its ‘80s comedy week at The Progressive Cinema Scorecard, which means it’s time to go Back to School.

  • The Netflix description reminding us that “Alan Metter” directed this movie (wink!), once again proving that if we can all just get our names on the Internet, we’re guaranteed to not be completely forgotten. = +1pts
  • Alan Metter’s other directing credits. = -5pts (Seriously, too painful to even joke about.)
  • An Orion Pictures production. = +3pts (Back when that used to mean something. RIP)
  • Casting Kevin Arnold’s older brother as a young Rodney Dangerfield. = +3pts
  • Remember way back in the olden times, when, to indicate a scene was taking place in the past (as opposed to, say, a poor neighborhood in Queens), old timey clothes, cars, and accents weren’t enough, and directors used to make things black and white? Alan Metter does. = -2pts
  • Berating Kevin Arnold’s brother for being retarded at school, thus typecasting him for life. = -4pts
  • Wearing rubber bands around your elbows to indicate your European ethnicity. = -1pts
  • An opening credit montage! It’s been decades since we’ve seen one of these! = +6pts
  • Shooting a commercial in which you make fat jokes in order to get fat people into your fat suit store. = -5pts (In 1988 = +5pts, In 2013 = -10pts)
  • Cabbage patch kids joke! = +10pts
  • About fat girls. = -10pts
  • Scratch that…about abandoned fat girls. = -10pts
  • So if our dad was a chauvinistic douchbag who expected us to become a diving champion and join a fraternity, we think we’d also have resorted to running people over our ‘58 Plymoth Fury. = +4pts
  • Throwing your dong towel in a towel boy’s face. = -5pts
  • William Zabka treating you like shit. = +15pts (This score is applicable in any decade. Any movie.)
  • Remember back when limos used to look like Cadillacs with an extra door? = +2pts
  • Notch Johnson cameo! = +3pts
  • A dirty old man stumbling into a sorority and opening the shower curtain of a naked female co-ed (twice). = -13pts (In 1988 = +5pts, In 2013 = -18pts)
  • Opening the curtain because you thought your son was the one showering. = -8pts (In 1988, = -4pts, In 2013 = -4pts)
  • Cop laughing with a dirty old man about his recent sexual assault of young woman. = -5pts
  • Seeing the color scheme of the Iron Patriot armor in young Tony Stark’s hair. = +5pts
  • 10-seconds in and Tony Stark is trying too hard to convince us he’s straight. = +3pts (For giving it the old college try.)
  • Wow…Tony Stark’s teeth. = -6pts (Just, wow…)
  • College band posters in 1988: The Pretenders, Duran Duran, The Cure (not so much as a poster, more in Tony Stark’s ensemble). = +18pts (For making us wish we went to college in another decade. DAMN YOU, BLOODHOUND GANG, DAVE MATHEWS, AND HARVEY DANGER!) 
  • The University of Wisconsin has never had that many students on grounds. Not ever. = -3pts (We don’t care that you call it “Grand Lakes University.”)
  • Your father challenging you to a “college-off,” while wearing plaid pants and a sweater vest. = -2pts (We’ll take that challenge any day, Dad.)
  • Having to buy your way into an elite academic institution because you have no high school diploma, standardized test scores, and your only claim to fame so far is your money and the sexual assault you perpetrated 3-hours ago. = -3pts (Take that [insert politician’s name here]!) 
  • You want to know how badass Tony Stark was in college? Just watch him rock the hightop fade 4-years before Kid of Kid n’ Play did. = +5pts
  • Having a chauffer who’s response to any given situation is physical violence. = -3pts (In 1986 = +5pts, Post Jayson Williams = -8pts.)
  • It’s amazing how Tony Stark pulls off the goth/gay/emo/homo/hetero/stud in a single scene and takes out Zabka without even touching the legs. = +7pts
  • Luring college kids from registration lines (Ha! Registration lines!) with a white placard with “Bruce Springsteen” written on it. = +10pts (Goddammit, if that doesn’t work in any decade…)
  • Remember the ‘80s: When intellectuals spoke with English accents? And all the laborers were ethnic Europeans? And all the black people wanted to rob you or break dance? = No points, just asking if you remember.
  • Converting three college dorm rooms into a mansion in the space of an afternoon, at a school you weren’t even going to that morning? What kind of magicman are you Thorton Mellon?!  = +4pts
  • How come everything coming out of Sam Kinison’s mouth in this movie sounds awesome, but the same words coming out of, say, Bill O’Reilly’s mouth illicit a violent reaction? = +10pts (For making the impossible, possible.)
  • One of the best lines in all of film: “He’s a good teacher. He really seems to care. About what…I have no idea.” = +15pts
  • “I like teachers. You do something wrong, they make you do it over again.” He ain’t talking about Joyce, folks. = +3pts
  • Insisting on walking across the quad in your robe because changing and showering in front of men will make you gay. We guess this explains all those gay NFL players. = -14pts (In 1988 = +1pts, In 2013 = -15pts)
  • Seriously, why diving? Of all the sports? = -9pts
  • Casting a male co-lead who is supposed to the love interest of a much taller, statuesque, woman, and he looks nothing like Tom Cruise. = -10pts (Seriously, this guy couldn’t hold Tom Cruise’s dong towel if he tried.)
  • Remember when everybody thought Sam Kinison was amazing because he sang a classic rock song with a scantily clad woman crawling all over the stage? Well, Rodney did it first. (To Sam’s credit, at least he did so in rhythm with the music.) = +5pts (For being a trailblazer. Not for the…you know, misogyny, which has been happening all movie.)
  • Divers hanging out with football players? = -10pts (In any decade.)
  • Bar fight! Summary: Rodney and son hide while Paulie and Tony Stark take on the whole football team by themselves. = +4pts
  • If you’re going to test someone’s book knowledge, try doing so first without listing books that have been made into movies. = -4pts
  • State of Women in 1988: Independent Women = Women Who Only Think About Themselves. = -20pts(Dawn of time-1988 = -20pts, in 2013 = NA)
  • State of Men in 1988: The women’s movement made men pussies. = -20pts (Dawn of time-1988 = -20pts, in 2013 = NA)
  • Paulie rubbing down Rodney for no reason. = +5pts
  • In front of his son. = -8pts (Ew.)
  • Kurt Vonnegut appearance! = +5pts (For not being a joke at all.)
  • Rodney’s lab project involving him teaching monkeys how to read. At this point we expect this to morph into a proto-Kindergarten Cop-like situation, where the monkeys teach Rodney how to be human/good student, since teaching him how to read is simply impossible. = +4pts
  • Staging an unironic “Caveman” themed frat party in a Rodney Dangerfield movie and doing it before “meta” cinema even really existed.  = +2pts
  • The lead singer for Oingo Boingo. By far the most terrifying thing we’ve seen all movie. = +1pts (Seriously, that guy is a walking fucking nightmare.)
  • Only Tony Stark could survive a scene that has him using fart sounds to harmonize with Oingo Boingo, simulating sex as a woman (or a bottom, whatevs’), and taking the classic Dangerfield burn on the chin, “Dereck, you look like the poster child for birth control.” = +10pts
  • ‘80s dancing. = +9pts (In 1988 = +3pts, In 2013 = +6pts)
  • Cops bringing booze to a party full of underage people. Scratch that, bringing booze to a party thrown by a perpetrator of sexual assault. = -16pts
  • Only Dangerfiled could make preparing and drinking a cup of coffee look like doing drugs. = +5pts
  • Thank God the diving announcer introduced Chaz Osborn as “former national high school champion” and not “diver without any noticeable male genitalia,” because only one of those would have been true. = +/- (Insert your own value proportional to your appreciation of male genitalia.)
  • Making arm farts as a way to get ready for your big dive when you have not dove competitively in 35 years. = -8pts
  • Triple. Lindy. = +67pts
Total Points: +70pts
Availabe: Netflix, Amazon, Under the floorboards in the rec room of the Overlook wing at the Catskills.

It’s a testament to the whimsical nature of this movie that it could end up with such a high positive score despite all of the homophobia, sexism, and ludicrous premise that has Rodney Dangerfield playing the romantic lead/diving prodigy. But hey, it was the ‘80s! Back then, school was a place full of bitter conservative professors who only wanted to talk about dead English poets, pussy democrats, and how Nixon never should have taken us off the gold standard. Still, despite the movie’s flaws, Dangerfield is a joke machine. Almost every line out of his mouth zings. Like when he says things like “How would you like a line of luxury and deceit?” or “With the shape I’m in, you could donate my body to science fiction.” His whole “movies are ridiculous I can’t even believe I’m here” vibe is parroted by Robert Downey Jr., who gives a performance that is even more wacky. One could argue that RDJr has been perfecting this meta-esque awareness of his presence on camera for the last three decades, honing it to a razor’s edge in movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the Iron Man films. And the movies final message, that the world is hard and sucks and you should never leave collage if you don’t have to, feels oddly progressive in the current economic climate. Still, it’s best to be safe when wading into any comedy from a past decade. So protect yourself and make sure you only do so with a Scorecard handy.

Score Technician: Sean McConnell

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