To amuse myself with cheesy nostalgia lately, while commuting, I've listened to two '80s soundtracks that I scrounged up and put onto one CD: namely, Xanadu and The Pirate Movie. If any of you have seen either (or, heaven forbid, both), then I realize your trust in my good taste has just plummeted. Or maybe you understand that these movies are of the "so bad they're good" variety. And if you haven't seen them: then, oooh, goody, I get to explain them!
Xanadu (1980) was the slightly more famous of the two, since it starred Olivia Newton-John, with a supporting role by, inexplicably, Gene Kelly. The plot is a kind of cool idea, actually: an artist (some shaggy-haired guy we never saw again) is in need of inspiration, and is sent a muse (that would be Olivia). Naturally, they fall in love with each other, which is tricky for reasons of her being a muse and him being a human. I'm all in favor of Greek-myth bases for plots, so this would be great, in theory. But the trouble is...well, let's just put it in a quick list:
1) It's a musical, with most of the music by Electric Light Orchestra, and Olivia, in a style that could be described as Lite Cheez Disco.
2) There's an animation sequence in the middle of the film, in which muse and artist turn into birds, fish, and cartoon versions of themselves, and chase each other around in cutesy fashion to slow-dance music.
3) The artist's inspiration takes the grand form of opening a roller-skate-disco (called Xanadu) at the end of the film.
However, because I saw this movie several times when I was between the ages of 7 and 12, and loved it back then, I can't entirely see it objectively. Is it good-bad, or is it just bad? Do I actually like a couple of those songs, or are they just so silly they're funny? Hmmm. Not sure.
The Pirate Movie (1982), now, could be a real treat for those of you who are way into certain other movies currently playing that involve pirates. It's also a musical, but in this case it's sort of a freakish collection of styles. For, you see, what they did was parody Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" (er, yes, G & S already is a parody), but threw some early '80s lingo and soft-pop into the mix. So some of the songs are straight out of G & S, with silly lyric changes, and others are Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins (assuming they did their own singing) crooning Captain-and-Tennille-ish ballads. Now, at least this movie is a comedy, and in general bad comedy is less painful and boring than bad drama - or rather, it's painful in a slightly more fun way.
And I have to admit, despite the horrible, ridiculous idea of parodying a parody, I love Kristy McNichol and would probably watch anything she's been in. I wanted to be her, back when I was a kid watching this film and Little Darlings. If I'd been a teenage lesbian in the '80s, I'd have put Kristy's picture up all over my walls. She wasn't gorgeously glamorous; she was sly and clever and tomboyish, and had a great dazzling grin, and in general was one of those older kids that we could instantly label Cool. But that's a sidetrack. On a heterosexual note, Christopher Atkins (sporting hobbit-like hair, now that I think about it) didn't look half bad in his skimpy pirate costumes, either. And although I didn't get it at the time, there are even some slashy references thrown in. (Kristy's character: "You're not...gay...are you?" Chris's character: "No!!" Kristy's character: "I mean, the way you and that 'pirate king' go around in all those rather feminine pleated shirts and all that leather...")
Anyway. I see my lunch break is up. You now know two of my silliest guilty pleasures, wired into my brain at an impressionable age and therefore basically permanent. Some part of me still wants to be a Greek muse who leaves a neon streak of light after she roller-skates away at high speeds; or one of a dozen daughters who wears low-cut white dresses and makes out with pirate boys on tropical beaches.
But, er, if you actually rent these films, keep in mind they probably do suck. It's not like I've actually sat down and watched them in the last ten years, after all, and there's a reason for that.