Saturday, September 11, 2010

East vs. West

This week I've been a little lazy, and watched a lot of free (often bad) movies.  For some reason, grainy American movies that were made in the 80's and 90's are like comfort food to me.  Perhaps the Chevy Chase or Bill Murray movies, that were constantly on TV during my teens, have influenced my reaction towards these flicks.  The feeling is similar to eating a bowl of canned tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese (made from pre-sliced American cheese).  It can be completely satisfying or cause a serious stomachache.

Without even realizing it at the time, I chose to watch two very different (but basically the same) movies made around the same time.  The first one was Smithereens, about the life of an aspiring punk performer chick trying make it in the squalor of Greenwich Village, circa 1982.  The second is 1983's Valley Girl, a pink-pop-gelled version of the typical "girl-meets-guy-from-wrong-side-of-the-hills" scenario.  This called for an east vs. west 80's style comparison.




Smithereens 1982
Not knowing a thing about this flick, I was quite impressed with its no maintenance style but very keenly (yes I said keenly) relevant art direction.  Each character could have been walking down Bedford Ave. today, which is not ironic.  I was also impressed by the fact that NYC subway cars haven't changed since '82.  The orange bucket seat cars look exactly the same now as they do in this movie, no joke.  Another thing that's notable is the second level of the West Side Highway that existed without use during that time.  Supposedly the highway couldn't support heavy traffic such as trucks, and it collapsed near 14th St. in 1973.  Therefore it was closed and unused decaying for about 14 years.  Seeing it in the background of scenes was sort of exciting in a nerdy way... after having biked and walked along the same spots for several years, as a manicured bike and running trail.




Later I found out this is the first movie Susan Seidelman directed and wrote, hence the styling.


Valley Girl 1983
First let me say that as far as plot goes, this movie lacks in a HUGE way.  However, it's pretty funny to see how people dressed and talked back then.  What makes this movie tolerable is the fact it's making fun of itself. Aside from the cheesy story, seeing LA made me miss it, and I did enjoy seeing the polished teeny bop images and the clothes thought to be stylish back then. Also Dottie from Pee Wee's Big Adventure is in it, which caused some excitement.




Having lived on both coasts, I find comparing these two pretty entertaining.  The LA punks look so clean cut and polished while the NY ones have style but are grimy.  And in LA, punks get beat up by Valley Jock Dudes?  Not sure if that would happen in NY...  The fashion in both movies are pretty similar as far as prints, colors, and shapes.  But for some reason, you get a glossy sea-breeze affect in LA's Valley Girl and a Mod one in Smithereens.

Even the colors stories are similar in both movies, but you end up getting totally different moods.




I can't help but compare the plots as well.  Smithereens is about surviving on your own and Valley Girl about fitting in with the crowd.  Could this be some insight about how each coast operates socially?  Very interesting indeed...  or may be I just need to get out more.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched Smithereens. Great stuff. I Really like that type of "punk movies". The Valley Girl, however - just looking at these pictures you have put up here, drives me away from it.

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