The Goonies (1985)
I was nine years old when The Goonies was released, and if you were around that age, this is likely to have been one of your favourites. It’s a classic eighties adventure that hits all the right buttons. In fact, it may be one of the most eighties movies ever made, which is no bad thing, but it has an authentic feeling and look that would be impossible to replicate now.
Watching this as a kid was fantastic, and off the top of my head I can’t think of any movie from my childhood that had the ability to transport me into another world the way The Goonies managed to. Watching it as an adult steals the stardust a little, because you just can’t watch it through those eyes anymore, but even then it’s really difficult to poke anything other than minor holes in the movie.
The Goonies is funny, the plot is magical, the action is cool, and the soundtrack is great. But the biggest thing the movie has going for it is the outstanding cast of character. There really isn’t a dud amongst them. From wiseguy Mouth, to scaredy-cat Chunk with his truffle-shuffle, and Data with all his misfiring gadgets and gizmos – every one is a winner, and a massive part of the reason that The Goonies is so fondly remembered, especially by people of my age.
Thriller – Michael Jackson – 1982
I’ve been a big fan of Michael Jackson for as long as I’ve been a fan of music in general. The first studio album I ever bought was the cassette of Bad, and I was also fortunate enough to see him in concert at Wembley Stadium – admittedly when he was past his prime, but come on… it’s Michael frickin’ Jackson.
Michael Jackson’s music always had excellent production and his sound was always stellar, even if the song wasn’t. The music video for Thriller is every bit the masterpiece that it was when it was released over thirty years ago, and there’s nothing I can say about it here that hasn’t been said before, so all I will say is if you haven’t seen it – firstly, I don’t want to know you; and secondly, why on earth have you not seen it?!
Thriller holds a special place in my heart, even though it’s nowhere near my list of top Jacko tracks. Hell, it’s not even one of the best songs on the album, and that’s only got nine songs on it!
When I was fourteen I lived in Australia and we filmed a home movie on VHS to send back to my grandparents in Scotland. Trust me, it was what people did in those days. Anyway, at the end of the tape my dad filmed me lip-synching to Thriller, as I shuffled from side to side, wearing white trousers, and a white denim shirt. Yes, for six whole minutes. I even threw in the single worst example of a moonwalk ever committed to camera. (Un)fortunately, this footage does still exist.
It was an annoyingly poor effort, because I know I can do better. Maybe I should recreate…
Hmmm, I wonder.
Jaws by Peter Benchley – 1974
If you haven’t read Jaws I would urge you to do so. If you have no inclination to read it because you think it’s probably just a pulpy and poorly written airport novels, the only value of which was to spawn Hollywood’s annual summer blockbuster tradition… think again. Not only is Jaws none of those things, but it’s one of the very best novels I’ve ever read.
I’ll be honest: the quality of Jaws really surprised me too. When I picked it up I had no idea how good it was going to be, because like most people I saw the movie first, and it’s sometimes difficult to get that Hollywood taste out of your mouth. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very good movie, but the book goes in to a lot more detail and does almost everything better.
Yes, Jaws is essentially a book about a killer shark, but it also explores plot threads that the movie doesn’t even touch upon, including the marital problems between Brody and his wife, and the tension between Brody and Quint. The book even includes a bunch of f-bombs which are (for obvious reasons) conspicuously absent from the movie. All of these things and more make the novel feel like a more adult-oriented experience, and a more worthy and realistic one as a result.
Rugrats (1991 – 2004)
There are very few television cartoons that appeal equally to children and adults, but Rugrats is one of those exceptions. Of course, this didn’t even begin production until I was at the latter ends of my teens so perhaps I’m not the best judge of straddling demographics, but I’ve watched Rugrats with my five-year old nephew and laughed right along with him.
The main characters of the show are one-year old Tommy, his two-year old best friend Chuckie, and his three-year old cousin Angelica. Tommy is usually the brains of the operation and often comes across as pretty wise for your regular one-year old kid. Chuckie was my favourite character (I wonder if that’s because I like redheads) and is scared of anything remotely exciting. Angelica is the resident bully and schemer, whose only concern is for herself.
The plots are usually witnessed through their eyes (along with various other friends and relatives) as we follow them through their day to day activities, and make their mundane toddler lives seem like fantastic adventures. Episodes are often populated with exaggerated and hyperbolic scenes in order to represent their vivid imaginations, which are sometimes presented to the viewer as pre-watershed versions of a trippy acid sequence.
The show was crudely animated and visually was always a little ragged around the edges, but that was part of the charm. A trilogy of films followed, but – passable as they are – Rugrats definitely worked better as twenty minute bites.
Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Dude, Where’s My Car? was the absolute favourite movie of one of my ex-girlfriend’s. Oh, how she would laugh when she watched it. The problem however is that Dude, Where’s My Car? is an absolutely terrible movie – the kind of terrible that makes a guy re-evaluate his relationship choices. In fact, this movie may very well be the reason she is my ex-girlfriend*. It’s that bad.
My ex-girlfriend would laugh so much when she was watching this movie – which she watched more often than I would care to admit – that I began to wonder if I just didn’t know a good joke when I heard one. Then again, I had introduced her to Laurel and Hardy, and she repaid me by giving me Ashton Kutcher, so it seems I got the short end of that particular stick. She knew I hated it, so perhaps this was just an innovative approach to get me to leave her.
I was in my early twenties when I was introduced to this abomination, which is probably the target age group for all of the toilet gags and lewd humour on display, but even at that infantile age I had higher comedic standards. Dude, Where’s My Car? is just a lazy movie that is more tragedy than comedy.
*Not the reason she is my ex-girlfriend.
You’re the Voice – John Farnham – 1986
Beyond his antipodean backyard John Farnham is not as well known or respected as his talent on the microphone should dictate, and has been overlooked internationally for most of his long career. That’s a crying shame, because he is arguably the greatest pop/rock performer Australia has ever produced. You know… next to Gina G.
You’re the Voice is taken from his 1986 album, Whispering Jack, and stands as the song that is most associated with him. It’s a power ballad that builds from a soft introduction to a chorus that few others could nail the way that Farnham does here, and also includes a brief yet memorable bagpipe solo, an instrument not often associated with the genre.
I’ve dropped the links for both the album version, as well as a live recording from three years later which he performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, quite simply because – as well as that entire concert being fantastic – this may be Farnham at the peak of his vocal powers. If anything, his range and raw emotion is used to greater effect here on stage than it ever was in the studio.
…and besides, this is my list and I make up the rules as I go along, so today is two for the price of one.
Mister X by John Lutz – 2010
I could probably be rightfully accused of having a predilection for those authors whose books I am already familiar with, so it’s infrequent that I read a novel by someone that not only have I never read before, but someone that I have not even heard of before. Mister X is one of those novels, by one of those authors. As it turns out, Lutz is a pretty popular writer as well – who knew?
Mister X is a crime thriller about the hunt for a serial killer who enjoys carving up his victims in all manner of wonderful ways. His trail has gone cold and interest in his capture only begins again when a strange woman with a curious connection to one of the victims shows up out of the blue in the office of the case’s lead detective.
It’s a fairly standard entry into an extremely crowded genre, and while it does nothing in a particularly outstanding manner, everything it does do, it does… competently. The characterisation is satisfactory; and the plot is (for the most part) fairly interesting. Yeah, Mister X is a competent novel in every respect – just don’t expect it to make a lasting impression on you.