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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: The 80s are back, with a vengeance: should we be afraid?

The weekend box office estimates are in, and the final numbers — which we’ll get later today — can’t possibly change enough to alter the apparent fact that The Karate Kid, estimated to have earned $56 million, kicked the ass of The A-Team, estimated to have earned $26 million. But that still means that retreads from the 1980s collectively earned $82 million this past weekend.

Hampton Stevens in The Atlantic, in his “Curmudgeonly Guide to Summer Movies 2010,” suggests that we have Hollywood Gen Xers to blame:

This will go down as the Year Generation X took over Hollywood. Finally. As critic A.O. Scott noted, the first wave of Generation X-ers are hitting their late 40’s, aging on camera while moving into positions of power off it. The result is a kind of collective, cinematic midlife crisis. John Cusack, whose Lloyd Dobler and Layne Meyer personified Reagan-era suburban angst, has stooped to self-parody in Hot Tub Time Machine. Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, arguably the best comic minds of their generation, have settled into the same kind of dull middle-age as the Shrek characters they keep milking Forever After. Once delightfully puerile, Adam Sandler keeps making movies about mortality, with last year’s Funny People, and this summer’s Grown Ups (see below) promising more of the same.

There is an upside to all this Gen-X navel-gazing. Namely, it means the Baby Boomers are finally losing their 40-year grip on Hollywood. Mercifully, the Summer of 2010 features precisely zero films about Vietnam, Woodstock, Nixon, JFK, Motown, or the Apollo space program. But while infinitely less self-congratulatory than their Boomer predecessors, Hollywood X’ers are seem just as fond of nostalgia and no more prone to original thought. The only difference is which decade is mined for material. Instead of remaking 60’s and 70’s favorites like The Beverly Hillbillies and Dragnet, studios now rehash ’80s favorites.

It’s hard not to agree with Stevens. But at least all those Boomer movies were about an era worth looking back on and wondering where we went wrong. Xers are mostly making sitcomish movies basd on old sitcoms. And if this is only the beginning of Xer power in Hollywood, then things can only get worse. Right?

The 80s are back, with a vengeance: should we be afraid?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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