Friday, October 28, 2016



Andie Macdowell bares her soul to James Spader in
sex, lies and videotape

Coming at the end of the 80's, sex, lies and videotape was the first Gen-X picture, taking shots at the predatory, suspender-wearing, Reagan-era yuppie (Peter Gallagher) in favor of James Spader's version of Steven Soderberg, a recovering liar who is witholding and impotent to boot, yet soft and sensitive, a feminized man racked by the kind of guilt that was obviously a stranger to the freewheeling Oliver North's of the decade about to be past.
-Peter Biskind, Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film 

Biskind further sees Sex, Lies and Videotape as a watershed of the independent film movement during that important year of '89. That's a lot of retrospective baggage to put on a film about a guy that likes to tape women talking about sex This was the third time I've seen this movie over the years. I wasn't all that looking forward to watching it again, but I found myself quickly sucked into the story about a guy who likes to videotape women talking about sex and his involvement with the wife of an old school friend before I knew it. Who is to say what works in a film and why? But whatever it is, I think sex, lies and videotape does work. I'm glad it found an audience and I'm glad smaller films get made, but it did leave a trail of failed smaller movies that tried to copy its success in subsequent years.

To further get into the mood of the thing, I also watched the movie on a VHS copy I taped off The Movie Channel during the early 90's...It was also the only copy I had readily available to me, but it still seemed fitting.

As luck would have it, the other movie I wanted to watch from that year was on that same old VHS tape...

Matt Dillon and William S. Burroughs in
Drugstore Cowboy
Another smaller film from 1989 was Gus Van Sandt's Drugstore Cowboy, about two couples in Portland in the early 70's who go around stealing drugs from local pharmacies to get a fix. It's a good character study and you can empathize a bit with these band of a degree, anyway...and any film with Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs as a priest has certainly got that going for it. The film is based on a book by real life drugstore cowboy, James Fogle. Sadly, Fogle was arrested for robbing a drugstore as late as 2011, well into his 70's. He died the following year. So it goes.


I went through the Wikipeda list of films released in 1989 movies and listed about twenty-five that I've seen that weren't on the 1001 list. I remember seeing all of them...but the details for some are a little murky.

1. Dead Poets Society
O Captain, my captain! Lots of inspirational moments in this film, though I do think at times the line between good and bad is spelled out in terms that are a little too black and white. I would put it in my 1001 book anyway, if only for the Robin Williams scenes.

O Captain, my captain!...Dead Poets Society

2. The Abyss
Yes, here's one that I saw and it was directed by James Cameron and had a lot of good underwater special effects and...a little murky on the details.

3. Back to the Future II
I like this second movie in this series where Marty goes to that futuristic date of 2015 and we see hoverboards, the Cubs winning the World Series (Maybe they were just a year off) and other fun stuff. My son really loves the line where we see bad guy Biff telling old man Biff to "Get out of my car, old man!" Some things can just ring funny to you, I guess.

4  Driving Miss Daisy
The Oscar winning film from 1989 about the relationship between an elderly southern Jewish woman and her black driver through the years did not quite make the 1001 cut. I have a bias in favor of Daisy for a few reasons. One is that it is set in Atlanta, which \is where I grew up. Another is that I saw some of the scenes from the movie being shot in Decatur, Georgia, my hometown. But mostly because I was in a stage production of the play a couple of years ago where I played Boolie. Why wouldn't it be in my book?\

Dan Aykroyd as Boolie, my favorite character in Driving Miss Daisy.
5. Heathers
"I love my dead, gay son!" and other quotes from this pretty dark but likable teen comedy.

6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
The kids get shrunk and then the parents try not to eat them and dogs try not to play with them as toys. Some fun special effects from what I remember.

7. In Country
You got to give Bruce Willis credit for jumping from the success of Die Hard to a serious film about a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. The film got good reviews, but really didn't do that well, which is too bad.

8. Ghostubsters II
More Ghostbusting fun five years later. When I think of this movie, I think of the song "Talk it Over," by Grayson Hugh which they showed the video for during the previews when I saw this at the theater in the Summer of 1989. I guess that's a little off point.

I really think they could have made a Ghostbusters III.

9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Probably the best of the Indiana Jones sequels and the film is stolen by Sean Connery as Indy's Dad.

10. K-9, Turner and Hooch
USA network loved to show these two movies over and over again for years. K-9 Cop was the one with Jim Belushi as the cop and the dog was a German Shepherd. Turner and Hooch was the one with Tom Hanks as the cop and the dog was a mastiff.

11. Licence to Kill
Not everyone loved Timothy Dalton's turn as James Bond, but he was definitely more from the Sean Connery school than the Roger Moore school.

12. The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid at the time seemed to me like an unlikely candidate to lead the Disney company back into the Disney renaissance because it didn't seem to have much appeal for boys...and this is why no one's ever asked me to be president of the Walt Disney company.

Ursula in The Little Mermaid

13. Look Who's Talking
Stupid but sometimes funny movie about a couple and a baby that you can hear his thoughts and stuff. But just how many of these damn movies did they have to make?

14. Major League
Pretty funny baseball movie, but non-appearance of Kevin Costner in movie about baseball from this period just seems wrong somehow.

15. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
When Chevy Chase was roasted once, a comedian told him that he had made four good movies and forty lousy ones. I think this is one of the good ones.

16. New York Stories
Three separate stories presented here from directors Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola. The one that scores the most is Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks featuring a pretty hilarious turn by Mae Questel as Woody's domineering mother.

Woody Allen's mother appears to be haunting him in Oedipus Wrecks.

17. Parenthood
Very likable Ron Howard comedy with a good cast led by Steve Martin about the ups and downs (like a roller coaster, you know) of family life.

18. Pet Cemetery
One of the better Stephen King book to film adaptations. Any movie with Fred Gwynne in it has that going for it, too.

19. Steel Magnolias
Honestly, I've watched a very good local production of this on stage. Only then did I watch the film and I honestly preferred the stage production, all-star cast in the movie or not.

20. Star Trek IV
The often maligned William Shatner directed Star Trek movie isn't awful, but is still probably the weakest entry in the movie series featuring the original cast.

God makes a cameo in Star Trek V

21. Sea of Love
I remember seeing this in the theater the week it opened. Nice story, nice use of title song and nice cast featuring Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin and John Goodman.

22. The War of the Roses
Another one that's a little murky in my memory. The Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner marriage was bad I think...but it was kind of funny? Danny De Vito was pretty good, too...but it's less murky in my mind than the next entry...

23. Warlock
I know I watched a movie called Warlock when it first came on cable. I remember who I watched it with. I remember pointing out to her that I don't usually watch this kind of movie. That's about all I got on this one.

24. Road House
Another film that is likely to make an appearance on a cable station near you. At least it did in the 90's. Patrick Swayze is a bouncer who takes his shirt off an awful lot.

25. UHF
I'm a big Weird Al fan. I love most of his videos and saw him in concert a couple of years ago. And UHF certainly has funny moments. But a long feature film career was not in the cards for Al.

The Oscar proves out of reach for Weird Al Yankovick in UHF

That's it for 1989, but read my lips...I'll be back!


  1. While I think that Sex, Lies and Videotape was conceptually interesting and ahead of its time, I found the characters so unlikable that I didn't really care if they ever mended their relationship.

  2. I guess I differ on that point. I found the characters interesting (especially James Spader as Graham) partly because they were all damaged for some reason or another.