PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Books

'Life Moves Pretty Fast' Hits Some Slowdowns

Freeman frequently complains about Hollywood's stereotypes about what male and female audiences are willing to watch, yet her own tastes are pretty stereotypical.


Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Anymore)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-1-5011-3045-8
Author: Hadley Freeman
Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback
Length: 339 pages
US Publication Date: 2016-06
UK Publication Date: 2015-05
Amazon

This may be the summer of 2016, but a lot of people seem to be obsessed with the movies of the '80s. Perhaps you've clicked on one of the many online articles incredulous that this summer marked the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman and the 30th anniversaries of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Top Gun. Or maybe you've heard that this fall on US TV, FOX is bringing us a Lethal Weapon TV series while remakes of Ghostbusters and Adventures In Babysitting are about to hit the box office.

So it makes perfect sense that Simon & Schuster would decide to reissue Hadley Freeman's Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Anymore), which was originally published a year ago in the UK. The US edition, which features a bonus chapter mostly about the 1987 comedy Baby Boom, comes in a cover made to resemble a stack of brightly colored VHS tapes and advertises that you can learn “how to be cool” by watching Bill Murray, “how to be funny” from studying Eddie Murphy, and watch When Harry Met Sally to see how “relationships really work”. Unfortunately, this makes the book sound much more fun than it actually is.

For example, what's the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions Dirty Dancing? Today we quote “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” or remember the epic “I've Had The Time of My Life” dance routine. Hollywood often paints it as the ultimate feel-good “chick flick”. Dirty Dancing is what Jess watches to cheer herself up with after a bad break-up in the pilot of New Girl, or something the teenage daughter on The Goldbergs used to bond with her embarrassingly overprotective mother in a recent episode.

In Freeman's book, however, the first chapter is all about Dirty Dancing's “real message”: the horrors of illegal abortions. The author does give a cute anecdote about how her ten-year-old self went to see the movie three separate times in order to look cooler than her friend who went to see Can't Buy Me Love instead, and features some interesting backstory about the film's original development and marketing from writer Eleanor Bergstein, but this eventually trickles down in a multi-page rant about how modern movie studios are unwilling to show realistic portrayals of teens' sex lives. At the end of the chapter, she tries to liven things up with a top ten list of “The Best Power Ballads on a Eighties Movie Soundtrack”, but its placement here seems strange.

There's also a little bit of false advertising going on here, as the press copy makes it out to look as if this book discusses much more than it actually does. Many iconic '80s movies, like Stand By Me, Highlander, The Goonies, The Little Mermaid and more, get barely a passing mention in the text, and the author admittedly points out in the introduction that she “pretty much” ignores anything in the horror, action, sci-fi, or war genres.

These type of books, like the excellent Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield or Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont's Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? before it, are supposed to be fun, guided tours through pop culture's past. People like reading about the things they loved in the past, and how popular or underrated those things were, and if these things are punctuated with amusing “Me too!” moments from a likable writer's past or a little behind-the-scenes information on such, then you've found a great book.

Freeman doesn't completely fail on this front, as her chapter on The Princess Bride is easily the most enjoyable. In addition to her memories of seeing the then-underrated film in a movie theater with her little sister, who then became obsessed with it, Hadley gives a well-researched account on the making of the movie and the friendships amongst its stars. Parts of the chapter on Ghostbusters, however, describing the cast's script-writing process and the film's overall message about friendship and hard work are also good, but they also unnecessarily include some completely ridiculous ideas about the “accidental homoeroticism” of The Lost Boys and Top Gun.

The book is also weighed down by the “why we don't learn them from movies anymore” part of its title. Freeman is not a fan of today's influx of superhero movies, and she makes that blatantly obvious by implying they are all mostly the same and that is all Hollywood is willing to produce these days. An entire chapter is devoted to the Batman movies, but despite a few mentions of her teenage admiration for Tim Burton and his version's sense of fun, Freeman mostly complains about the seriousness of The Dark Knight trilogy, repeating the same clunky “Bush post-9/11” analogy that various newspapers tried to set forth during the release of the movies.

It's also interesting to note that for someone who frequently complains about Hollywood's stereotypes about what male and female audiences are willing to watch, her own personal tastes are pretty stereotypical. About 1986's US Air Force-themed Iron Eagle, she says “apparently guys really love this movie” and dismisses Weird Science as being a “dopey-ass teen comedy” that men “retain a strong fondness for”, while referring to Steel Magnolias as a “proper women's movie”, and praising Dirty Dancing's objectification of Patrick Swayze.

But despite the fact that she frequently gives away the entire plot of a movie covered, reading Life Moves Pretty Fast will likely make you want to watch or re-watch at least one of the movies it discusses. Freeman ends the book with a top 20 list of “Eighties Movies I Didn't Look at Properly in This Book That You Really Need in Your Life”, leading us to think that a possible sequel is in the works. Hopefully, like most of the movies it details, the next one won't be so serious.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.