Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Got the Touch!

Real quick, before I get started, let's make sure 'The Touch' is from the 'Transformers' soundtrack and not 'St. Elmo's Fire.' It's the first song that popped into my head when I saw this film FINALLY back on The Instant, but I might be confusing these two crown jewels of the 80s. Lyrics, please:

You got the touch/You got the power/After all is said and done/You've never walked, you've never run/You're a winner!

And lyrics from 'Man in Motion,' theme song to 'St. Elmo's Fire':

Growin' up/You don't see the writing on the wall/Passin' by/Movin' straight ahead, you knew it all/But maybe sometime if you feel the pain/You'll find you're all alone, everything has changed

Unclear if Scotty has gas or the special tingles, but either way, his expression says it all: it doesn't matter which film the song came from! You're going to get the special tingles no matter what!

'St. Elmo's Fire' is one of those shit-sandwich movies made by Joel Schumacher, where he took 2 pieces of bread, smeared shit on both of them, and then piled a bunch of stupid cliches in there for filling: banners flapping, high-contrast lighting, sax music, clowns, pimentos, you get my drift. The only real difference between this movie and 'Lost Boys' is that one of them has vampires in it and one of them has Rob Lowe in it (*rimshot*). Otherwise, like most of his 'stylish' works, they're full of the same tomfoolery: dudes with flaring nostrils, girls twirling in sparkly skirts, and the all-important SAXOPHONE BREAK. To wit, in 'St. Elmo's Fire':

I will cut a bitch who says this is not the bestest, most awesome jammin' out scene in the history of scenes. Sweat is flying! Demi Moore is dry-humping a jukebox! Rob Lowe is ROCKIN'!

And, in 'Lost Boys,' a close second:

Oops! My bad, wrong version. Here we go:


I'm getting ahead of myself - time to pump the brakes. I need to give this lynchpin of my 80s DVD collection the attention it deserves. Look at the poster, you guys:

The passion! The heat! The deep burning! Sounds like herpes, if you ask me. It also must sound like herpes to the person who wrote this at the top of the movie's IMDB page:

"A Group of friends, just out of college, struggle with adulthood. Their main problem is that they're all self-centered and obnoxious."

Touche! Let's start with the glorious title card of 'St. Elmo's Fire,' pink skinny Avant Garde font and all. The synthesized strings and tinkly piano start, you hop into your DeLorean and you're transported back to the classiest 80s world you can imagine: GEORGETOWN. Christ on a cracker. Walking towards us like the Reservoir Dogs are a bunch of punchable proto-yuppies in their graduation gowns, the not-really-notorious Brat Pack:

1. Andrew McCarthy, looking sloppy
2. Mare Winningham, looking tolerant
3. Rob Lowe, looking shitfaced
4. Judd Nelson, looking hot (AAHAHAHAHAH)
5. Ally Sheedy, looking prissy
6. Demi Moore, looking slutty
7. Emilio Estevez, wearing shorts

The 'looking shitfaced' comment was actually the joke, because I'm fairly sure every single one of them was coked out of their minds, but whatever.

SMASH CUT TO Judd, Ally, Andrew and Emilio (their characters have names but who cares, I love typing their real names) storming into a hospital, because DRAMA. Looks like Rob Lowe crashed Mare Winningham's car, because ALSO DRAMA. They are all thoughtfully dressed so we know immediately what their lives have become. Judd Nelson is a professional type, Ally Sheedy is some kind of smarmy bitch who makes enough money to wear the ubiquitous pearls that make this movie a fucking style classic, Andrew McCarthy is a fake Woody Allen, and Emilio Estevez is wearing suspendies and a tablecloth, so he must be a clown (which would make sense in a Joel Schumacher film). Demi Moore shows up in party-girl furs and ruched pink taffeta a la Marilyn, mainly to make poor Mare Winningham - forced into a Bataan death march of grotesque cardigans and pioneer woman fashions throughout the whole film - look extra dumpy. When Emilio tries to law-speak with the cop dealing with the accident, we realize ah-HA he's not a clown, he's a law student moonlighting as a waiter! DUH.

Rob Lowe, who believes in premarital sax, is wearing a dagger earring, his fraternity jacket AND a blazer with a Georgetown crest thingie on it, because people do that after they've graduated from college. It's funny that he got arrested for drunk driving!

Everything's OK almost immediately, as there is no time in This World to dwell on insignificant things like someone endangering someone else's life. There is a brief interlude where Emilio runs into that lady who can't act her way out of a paper bag from 'Four Weddings and A Funeral,' who in this movie is a doctor, and is very busy helping children and rushing into blinding lights and screaming people, so that Emilio is instantly in love with her. That Casio synthesizer starts up again, along with A HEARTBEAT GURRRK that thank god turns quickly into a slammin' drum loop that sounds like the entirety of my junior high Sadie Hawkins dance, and we're at the bar!

Now, I wasn't in college in the 80s, but I was in college in the 90s, and I went to a posh school like Georgetown, so, same difference. Nobody I knew would have been caught dead at a 'Cheers'-style joint that looked like Tom Cruise should be behind the bar in a blousy Hawaiian shirt - we always went scorpion bowling in Chinatown, so you could get FUCKED UP for dirt cheap - but in This World we hang out at St. Elmo's Fire, so there can be a reason for the title of the movie. Through some quippy (YES) dialogue we learn a few more key things about these characters: that Judd Nelson wants to be a Republican President, Andrew McCarthy is a frustrated writer, Rob Lowe had a shotgun wedding AND his face seats five, and Mare Winningham lives her life in the fat lane. After Judd Nelson gives Rob Lowe a swirly and everyone does a conga line through the bar - packed with forty-year-old "college students" in plaid and argyle - we move into each character's individual lives. Rather than have an actual story, let's spend a bunch of time learning why we should give a fuck about any of these people!

Judd and Ally live in a loft the size of Delaware, because 4 months after graduation and their combined salaries as architect (4 months after graduation? She must be talented as shit) and congressional aide is clearly in the millions. They argue about unprotected sex. Wait - I thought this was the 80s! Demi Moore shows up to crash on their floor, do shots of that most 80s of drinks, Absolut, and exhibit actress fragility. Do we care yet?

Bender doesn't give a FUCK. This, we know.

Meanwhile, over at Someone's Idea of a Bachelor Pad, the gaiz hang out together: Andrew plays the bongos and smokes, Emilio dreams of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Rob Lowe is a deadbeat dad. I cannot explain how mesmerizing their conversation about love is, so I'll let Bender do it for me:

Time for more tinkly piano and synthesized strings! Ally Sheedy is buying a hideous sofa at a fancy antique store. I want to pause for a moment and note how you can always tell you're in a Joel Schumacher film, even in a throwaway shot outside a goddamned antique store:

There's a dude selling balloons outside the store. Why is there a dude - in a headband and combat boots, no less - selling balloons outside a fancy antique store? I'll tell you why: because Joel Schumacher couldn't justify putting a sweaty dude playing a sax, a girl twirling in a sparkly skirt, or flapping banners in this shot, so he had to cram something bouncy and colorful in there somehow. Hence, BALLOONS.

In one of my very favorite nonsensical moments in all of cinema, which should tell you how low the bar is set for me, Demi Moore is chastising Mare for not buying a red dress and proclaiming her sexual mojo. As she says this, she flings a giant foxtail wrap around her shoulder and meows at a preppy dude walking by who asks, "Hi beautiful! Like Porsches?" THE EIGHTIES!?!?11! Everyone piles into her black Jeep THE EIGHTIES!!?!?!! and goes off to get shitfaced some more. After, Demi lures Andrew McCarthy back to her apartment, Someone's Idea of a Party Girl's Pad. It is the most glorious and most nightmarish place you can possibly imagine:

Billy Idol, orchids, neon, concrete-and-glass coffee table, walking stick collection, pink and gray and burgundy everything. MIC DROP.

Here, we learn that she's brought him here so he can screw her decorator neighbor, a guy named Ron. Ron is gay. How do we know this? Because he emerges from his apartment holding a pink frozen margarita. Uh oh! He MUST be gay! Poor Andrew. Is he gay, maybe? We don't know, but we doubt it, because being gay in 80s movies was not cool, and there's no way a main Brat Pack character would be gay. That is Science (TM).

We stop in at Jules's office (the next day or 2 weeks from then, for all we know; the only 80s movies where time is truly relevant are 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and 'Back to the Future') so we can a)see her wearing the shit out of a Working Girl combo of pinstriped pencil skirt, huge white men's shirt and oversized glasses, and b)so we can see her deciding to fuck her boss to get out of being overdrawn on her paychecks. FEMINISM! Luckily, to counter that, Emilio tries to take the lady doc to a foo foo lunch to impress her and she basically blows him off to go save someone's life. I feel the balance has been redressed.

Next, because there's no story, Andrew joins Ally and Judd at their loft for something cooked in a wok, because that's what yuppies did for dinner. Ally Sheedy is attempting to cut vegetables with a paring knife, which indicates that IRL she's never cut vegetables before, which is odd because I thought she was an animal rights activist and a vegetarian. But, whatever. They discuss being in love, which, as I've already pointed out, is mesmerizing, and that conversation is thankfully cut short when Judd Nelson appears to shake shit up. The other best line in the movie happens (Judd Nelson: "Leslie has to marry me soon." Andrew McCarthy: "Why, are you pregnant?") and we discover that Judd Nelson is a despicable man whore who fucks salesgirls. Do we care?

Sad Andrew leaves and goes wandering through Whore Town (a suburb of Georgetown, *rimshot*), but he can't even score with the ratchet-looking working girls. One of them, a Wise Hooker exquisitely named Naomi, tells him she's not interested because she thought he was gay.

What happens next? Demi Moore is fucked up and partying with "Arabs," and begs Judd Nelson to come and get her because she thinks she's going to get gang raped. When he shows up at their hotel room to find the "Arabs" watching MTV and ordering room service, he loses all sympathy for Demi Moore, who doesn't care and goes off to fuck someone else. Oookay! Do you want to know what happens next? Presumably, she fucks someone else.

Mare and Rob have dinner at her parents' house, where everyone is VERY JEWISH. How do we know this? They talk about buying BMWs, owning businesses, and being wealthy. You've got to be kidding me! The unadulterated bigotry in this movie is thick enough to choke a goose. To make matters worse, her dad tells Mare she needs to get married because her current job is killing time until a husband can take over the family greeting card business. What the -? Someone's spreading the shit on the shit sandwich with a fucking trowel. As Rob Lowe's character would say - and does, in this scene - this is OUT OF HAND. He tries to fuck Mare, who's not only a virgin, but is wearing 8 layers of Spanx, in order to keep Rob Lowe out. Hang on - seriously? We're meant to believe that she doesn't want this up in her boyhowdy?

OOF. Literally.

Next is the aforementioned saxophone break at the bar. I will freely admit that there's something about this scene that I genuinely heart. Maybe it's the corn shucks tied to the bar door, or the vaguely East Coast Halloween-ness of the crowd, or that dang high-contrast lighting, or how everyone in the Brat Pack is wearing shirts with their collars up and matching skinny ties, or the mindless, droning saxophone pop music that sweaty Rob Lowe is "playing," but there's something so nostalgic about it all that it just gives me the warm fuzzies, even if it's nostalgia for an experience I never technically had.

I rank this party scene right up there with other watershed party scenes in awesome 80s movies:

1. The party scene in 'Some Kind of Wonderful'
2. The party scene in 'Weird Science'
3. The party scene in 'Sixteen Candles'

There's a fight involving Rob Lowe's mullet-having child bride and everyone comes outside, which gives us the brief opportunity to see that Demi Moore's jeep has balloons and streamers tied to it. JOEL SCHUMACHER.

The gurlz have lunch together at a soup kitchen, where we learn they're worried about Demi Moore fucking her boss. This devolves into YET ANOTHER CONVERSATION ABOUT LOVE. Will it ever stop? Imma skip over some "plot" shit and instead focus briefly on something more interesting: the mullets in Joel Schumacher movies.

In this movie, there are a lot, but one who gets no screen time yet is worthy is John Parr's mullet. John Parr is the guy who sings the theme song, a rad 80s anthem which unfortunately was about something good (honoring an athlete in a wheelchair) and was essentially perverted into meaninglessness in this movie. But, the mullet:

Here's another Schumacher mullet, albeit more of a hybrid (probably because 'Flatliners' is a transition movie, late 80s/early 90s, a complex time in the history of cinema worthy of further study):

And one more, for good measure:


OK, back to business. Emilio is still pining for the lady doc, so he pulls an Erika Christensen and stalks her while she goes to a fancy party. We know he loves her because the music playing while he watches her go into the party (in the rain, of course) is kind of slowed-down and is full of sleigh bells. In the 80s, sleigh bells meant unrequited love, just like big drums meant triumphing over adversity and cowbell meant the beginning of an epic journey.

Fake horns and oboes and shit meant a yearning for the good times. (It might sound like I'm making this up as I go, but I'm telling you, IT'S SCIENCE [TM]!) We hear that noise when Rob Lowe goes back to school to hang out with his frat brothers, who it turns out only want him around because he can get good drugs. Really? They can't get good enough drugs on their own? What is this, a college for ants?

To make matters worse, his mullet-having child bride wants to leave him and marry a more responsible dude. For some reason Rob Lowe is not interested in being freed from this obligation, which would allow him to seat as many girls on his face at once as he likes! He doesn't seem to care at all about his kid, either, so why wouldn't he use this Get Out of Jail Free card? His logic that instead things are going to continue to get OUT OF HAND is flawed.

The tension peaks and breaks at the second party in this movie, the one Emilio Estevez throws at the rich dude's house where he now "works." Everyone is wearing tuxedos and lace, Rob Lowe has a gold lame tie on, and Demi Moore has a sparkly skirt! You KNOW there's some twirling that's gonna happen. After some awkward interludes where everyone stresses out, puts their feet in their mouth and snorts a bunch of blow, Judd Nelson decides publicly that he and Ally Sheedy are getting married. She gets MAAAD and all his salesgirl-fucking gets aired out like dirty laundry! As we used to say in the 80s, "Buuuust-eeeed!"

The party falls apart and everyone goes home. Rob Lowe tries to rape Demi Moore, which is uncharacteristic even for him; Emilio Estevez goes running off to Big Bear (?) to find the lady doc, and Andrew McCarthy brings Ally Sheedy to his Bachelor Pad and acts desperate and pathetic so she'll pity-fuck him. It totally works! He just had to make his signature fish-eyed stare accented with slack pursed-lips and she kicked off those lace-up boots and hiked up that Laura Ashley black velvet skirt! Their sex scene is SENSATIONAL. It does the following:

1. Goes on for like 45 minutes of screen time and appears to go on for a week IRL
2. Involves having sex on top of a coffin
3. Involves that bugaboo of the 80s, a bra that clasps in the front
4. Busts the shower door down
5. And, best of all, invites a litany of 'pearl necklace' jokes, thanks to the fact that Ally Sheedy never takes hers off

I couldn't find a satisfactory picture of the pearl necklace sexytimes situation, but this one's better anyhow.

Some more "plot" happens. Let's hop through it quickly:

-Mare Winningham doesn't want to get pregnant
-Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy fight over splitting up their record collection, which is ridiculous because they have the WORST TASTE (Billy Joel? Mahler's 9th?) and should just start over, maybe with some recommendations from Iona and Andie over at Trax record store

-Andrew McCarthy is high on life and wants to fuck Ally Sheedy all the time, preferably in front of Ron to teach him the lesson that being gay apparently means you never get to have sex with straight people
-Andrew McCarthy also has to be taught what sex is:

Ally Sheedy: Kevin...sex isn't love.
Andrew McCarthy: What's that mean?
Ally Sheedy: ....

But then, shit gets real. All of Demi Moore's shit gets repo'd and she freaks the fuck out and locks herself in her bedroom with this:

Suck me sideways, Joel Schumacher! We know you like clowns, but that thing's enough to give anyone the vapors!

The Brat Pack rallies around the cause while the synth strings spaz out. Judd Nelson tries to throw Andrew McCarthy off the fire escape and is only thwarted by the arrival of Rob Lowe and his wailing saxophone theme. As Rob Lowe notes, it's getting pretty OUT OF HAND. While Andrew McCarthy uses a blowtorch (that he learned how to operate in Georgetown's sophomore seminar Welding and Bronze Techniques 242?) to try and get in to Demi's apartment, Rob Lowe straight busts down the door. Even though the last time she saw him he tried to rape her, Demi Moore is OK with him coming in and giving her wisdom in This World. I don't know if even Naomi the Wise Hooker would approve. He then goes on to tell her what she's doing "smells of self-created drama," completely negating the one possible heartfelt thing her character might be experiencing with the death of her stepmother, and then inexplicably tells her the story of St. Elmo's fire while lighting some hairspray on fire with the glee of a sixth grader lighting a fart:

He then reminds her that "she's making everything up," meaning, I guess, her ruined family and the loss of her career aren't real. Is this actually a fantasy? Does it all take place inside John Malkovich's head?

Rob Lowe's reward for trying to rape someone both physically and emotionally is to have sex with Mare Winningham! It's her going-away present to him, because he's moving to New York to play that song he played earlier, over and over, in a bunch of clubs. Maybe he can get a job playing here!

The last scene of the movie is everyone saying bye bye to Rob Lowe as he gets on a bus for the Big City, which apparently Washington D.C. is not. He gives everyone a bunch of parting wisdom, including telling avowed panty raider Judd Nelson not to let Ally Sheedy go, which is, uh, exactly the opposite of wisdom. Then everyone decides not to go to St. Elmo's for a drink, because when they look in the window they see a bunch of punchable proto-yuppies that look just like them sitting at their table! How DARE they! They pretend not to be offended and decide to have brunch instead at Flingers, or Tchotckes, or something, because now they're grown up, and that's what grown ups do. While the synth strings arpeggio and the piano pounds away, the credits roll, and we're left wondering only one thing (since all our other questions about this plotless wonder were answered): What Would Naomi Do?

Why, tell you you're gay, of course!

How much do I love this used diaper full of Indian food [of a movie], you guys? THIS MUCH.

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