The 1980s — well, the mid-'80s — was when I started to get just how much FILM was out there. This was thanks to video stores, which my family started to rent from in late 1984; cable had slowly expanded my awareness before, but SHELVES AND SHELVES of films, that really did it! For me and my family it was the Vienna, Virginia Erol's Video (and, briefly before that, the chain's Tysons Corner store, probably the first video store I ever went to). This was when the stores sold memberships — half-yearly, yearly, and "lifetime" memberships (yes this was a thing) — so that you could then rent movies at 2 bucks a pop. By the time I started going to Erol's, Betamax was waning as a format; no more than a quarter of any store I went into had Beta tapes on the shelves. Soon it was all VHS; and Blockbuster Video bought the chain long before Blu Rays, DVDs (or DIVx discs) entered the market, and longer before the collapse of the video rental store market. I remember those shelves, many filled with films I'd never see because I was unlikely to try something oddball; my film diet wasn't wide enough. I wasn't adventurous enough.
In a way, '80s All Over is all about those shelves and shelves, so many of which were filled with now mostly-forgotten films. This was a time where a home video guide touted as the big new release for the month the comedy Tomboy. It's been McWeeny and Weinberg's jobs for decades to see and ponder these; they're both published film critics, and before that McWeeny worked in both a movie theater and a laser disc store. (He's also written film and TV scripts.) Weinberg, along with his review work, co-produced the new film Found Footage 3D. I've followed their writings for years, McWeeny since the late Nineties when he was "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News. This is such a good and correct outlet for themselves they've created.
Each episode highlights a single month's theatrical releases (most of which eventually made it to video), starting with January 1980. The hosts react to each film, as both a product of its era and how (if) it holds up. (January 1980's Can't Stop the Music, starring the Village People, emphatically does not.) The fourth episode, covering April 1980 (Tim Conway and Don Knotts! PG-rated Disney horror! James Coburn! Dario Argento! Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson!), just came out; in two weeks, the fifth episode will tackle The Empire Strikes Back, plus all the other films that hit U.S. theaters that May.
So, eventually, McWeeny and Weinberg will cover Tomboy (in theaters January 1985), as well as Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again (December 1982), Tank (March 1984), Space Raiders (a Roger Corman cheapie from July 1983 that re-used footage from Battle Beyond the Stars), Saturday the 14th (October 1981), and many others.
We'll see trends from and through the decade thanks to the show: the effects of PG-13, the rating added in 1984 that's since become the rating of almost every hoped-for blockbuster; the related waning of the era when PG films were likely to be for wider audiences than just kids; the Steven Spielberg influence, through his handful of directorial efforts and all those films he produced; the Miami Vice influence, back when a lot of people thought Michael Mann was just a flashy stylist when in fact he was becoming one of the most fascinating, assured commercial filmmakers around; the changes in James Bond films across that decade's five official films (plus October 1983's unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again); the refining of blockbuster formulas (and marketing) so that something as eccentric as June 1989's Batman could be the biggest film of the year; and more.
I'm looking forward to all this more.
So. '80s All Over, hosted by Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg, and produced by longtime podcast producer Bobby Roberts. On iTunes and Blubrry. Worth a listen.