80s All Over stalled out in April of 1985. The mission was to cover the decade. It got a bit over halfway but ultimately the cost and effort were unsustainable for hosts Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg and the cast came to an end. Just over a year ago McWeeny relaunched the 80s project in text and has done a full year but the podcast is no more.
Yet it’s funny. Is it possible to call the cast a failed experiment? I can’t say that a project that yielded well over 70 hours of dense film discussion was anything but a massive triumph. I was let down the cast ended but in the three years since, I’ve revisited the cast nonstop. It remains one of the most richly entertaining works I’ve ever listened to.
All of that is on McWeeny and Weinberg. I walked in loving their work but this made me like them. And that’s not projection. I’ve gotten to have a few very lovely conversations with them online. These are very likable men. I think they do a great job of making a space to be comfortable in. I listened to these on so many drives and they were the perfect accompaniment.
But most importantly, the show forced you to look at the gestalt of American cinema month to month. You saw that nothing was ever all good or all bad. The same month that gave us Ghoulies gave us Blood Simple. By sitting and listening to the trailers and comments on the films, the listener understands the shape of the experience. And listened to in order, the way the art moved from the last gasp of the 70s to the true 80s can’t be ignored.
So because I think what remains is so worth your time, I want to get meta and list my 5 favorite episodes in order. These are the episodes I think will give you the best experience.
It’s weird that in a month of disasters the thing that excites me is the discussion of Berlin Alexanderplatz. The show often took very daunting serious films and broke them down to seem very approachable. They sell you on Cujo. They make you intrigued to see Twice Upon a Time. That said, this episode is a month of disasters. I mean can you have a good month when there are two Ulli Lommel films including the infamous Revenge of the Boogey Man? This was the month of Smokey and the Bandit 3, the (virtually) Burt Reynolds free sequel. Oh and we get a Ted Wass hatefest. Those rule.
The selling point of this episode is that it proves the 80s were more than the big movies. That’s true. There’s a lot of great and awful small movies. But no this gets the 3 spot because it shows how you can talk about classic movies with vigor. I mean I don’t need selling that Poltergeist and E.T. are still vibrant films. But I love listening to them get excited by these classic films. Again, a great gestalt episode. But wow when you get to the hosts on Blade Runner, The Thing, and Wrath of Khan, that’s why 80s nostalgia is ok.
Honestly this is THE Cannon episode. Hearing them take a final swing at John Derek and calling him out for what a despicable pervert he was for Bolero rules. They look at Love Streams, the John Cassavetes film made for them. There’s an Italian peplum film. We get Sword of the Valiant. But there’s far more beyond Cannon. I love that they dissect the history of The Joy of Sex. There’s a meditation on Gene Wilder. They discuss a Merchant/Ivory film and it’s genuinely entertaining. They gut C.H.U.D. The riff on Sheena is gold. What counts though is it builds to an epic, nuanced discussion of Revenge of the Nerds that tackles problematic art better than any discourse I’ve ever seen. They look at the film with incredibly fair eyes and cite the great things in it but they can’t let it off the hook for the criminal ideas in it. It’s what discussion should be.
I debated including this episode because if I’m honest this episode is welded to my personal mythology in a way I can’t separate it. It played while I took a trip to cleanse my soul during a nervous breakdown. The thing is I have to look at what movies they covered. Private Lessons and Student Bodies on the bad end. Prince of the City and An American Werewolf in London on the good. There’s actually some of the most fascinating discourse in the show and I love that. I’m left to realize that I’m looking at this episode from the wrong end. It’s not that this meant something because of when it played. It’s because listening to this becomes a self demonstrating example of the show. They reminisce about the art they love when they were in my shoes. This then became that for me. And it’s worth listening to for Honky Tonk Freeway alone.
This is my favorite episode of the entire project and there are so many reasons why. It’s one of the most diverse lineups of films. Dune, Beverly Hills Cop, The Cotton Club, 2010. I stress that the discussions on those are the best you may ever hear. I kinda love they get to briefly look at the awesome trash of Runaway. The episode is worth hearing for all of that. But it’s my favorite because of one element: McWeeny talks about Starman. He’d gotten to go to the set and meet John Carpenter as a kid and it changed his life. Putting aside that Starman is an all timer, you get to hear how that one opportunity inspired everything he did as an adult down to McWeeny even getting to have his work filmed by Carpenter as an adult. This is the perfect encapsulation of what the cast did right in reflection by making it personal. McWeeny cries talking about what this means to him. Warning: you will too.
Thank you good sirs.