My Take by Jim Carl - November 16, 2011

MY TAKE is a blog about my funny life experiences that happened to involve movies, and how I found myself in charge of programming films for a living.  I’ll discuss how certain movies came to be responsible for my bad attitude, memories, associations, personal beliefs, and plain stupidity. Yes, I fully intend to trash films considered sacred in certain circles, and will probably offer a poor explanation for doing so. I also intend to squander praise on movies considered awful by most everyone, even if it makes me sound ridiculous, because I have a funny memory to share about them.  Again, I’m not writing reviews.  All I mean to do here is tell some good stories, and perhaps a clever lie or two.  No one has ever accused me of suffering a shortage of ways to make a fool of myself, and because blogging is one I haven’t tried, at least this is one most of my friends haven’t yet seen.


How could we, those of us in our mid-teens during the summer of 1984, take The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai as anything but a terrible misfire, the cinematic equivalent of a dud bottle rocket at the conclusion of a grand 4th of July show, especially since that show had seemingly lasted all summer?  What a great school break we'd been given in 1984.  We'd battled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, seen a gremlin explode in a kitchen microwave, been chased through lava-ridden caverns aboard a runaway mine car, watched the Starship Enterprise explode, defeated all those white, bubble-wrapped Russians invading America, and been taught some snazzy life lessons by a crusty-but-spry Okinawan. Buckaroo Banzai arrived in late-August, just a few days before school started and summer died and, by then, we were adventured-out.

I watched it a year later on HBO, never realizing it would become a cult classic, and feeling blindsided when it did.  Until Banzai, I'd been a statistical part of every one of my generation's cult classics, even the ones, it could be argued, where my sole vote hardly counted as a statistic.  (Raise the Titanic, I’m looking at you.)  Banzai was the first time, I believed, where my own generation betrayed me by embracing a film that was no fun, whatsoever.  This movie’s absurdist sense of humor, I felt, was beneath me.  It felt too much like watching several goofy sci-fi TV series’ at once, all starting somewhere during the second half of their fourth seasons.  Lots of jibber-jabber about Oscillation Overthrusters and Red Lectroids…and my head starts hurting.  I dunno, maybe by 1984, I was getting too old for this type of silliness; a feeling I also felt toward The Ice Pirates, by the way.  If I’m gonna watch a clever, time-travelling doctor, I’ll take Doctor Who.

Buckaroo Banzai, I imagine, was a film meant for my generation’s baby brothers, not that I had a baby brother.  If I did, however, I would have mocked him, insufferably, for possibly enjoying this movie.  He probably would have loved the title and only pretended to enjoy the rest.  To this day, I am unable to watch Buckaroo, no matter how many people tell me otherwise.  To me, it represents a lapse in judgment on my own generation's otherwise good taste.    

JIM CARL is Senior Director of the Carolina Theatre.  He has been in charge of its film program since 1995.  Some of his favorite contemporary movies include The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, Dangerous Liaisons, The Punisher (2004), Postcards from the Edge, Aliens, The Fog (1980), Private Benjamin, Deep Blue Sea and almost anything involving Great White Sharks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Thomas Jane, Kurt Russell, or is set underwater.  His favorite movie of all time is Ordinary People.  Some of his least-favorite contemporary movies include Alien 3, Crank 2: High Voltage, Brazil, The Usual Suspects, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Scarface (1983) and almost anything involving Will Ferrell (except Elf), Jason Statham, mobsters, British gangsters and drug dealers, or a toy that transforms into a loudmouthed robot.  His least-favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction.  He is a film believer in the presentation and preservation of 35mm film and will book any movie he suspects will make money, even if he hates it. 


I rather enjoy Banzai, but only in small doses. I watch it once every couple of years to have a chuckle and appreciate the End Theme Music on occasion (also to fawn over Pretty Boy.) Otherwise, eh.

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