In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Economics Today | Main | Impolite Drivers and the Cars They Drive »

June 06, 2009

Guest Posting: Jake Thomas on "Tango & Cash"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

One of the smartest -- and certainly one of the funniest -- pieces of filmyak that I've read in a long time is something I found not in the pages of Slate or The New Yorker but on Facebook, posted there by an actor-friend named Jake Thomas. After smiling my way through it, I asked Jake if it'd be OK with him if I Guest Posted it here on 2Blowhards. He was happy with the idea, so here it is.




by Jake Thomas

First of all, let's define our terms here. When I say "most" definitive film in regards to a decade/era, I'm not talking about quality, or "best," nor am I talking about most indicative of the zeitgeist. What I'm thinking of is how movies were made and why they were made. I want a movie that WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN MADE in another decade.

For instance, if we were talking about just regular old movies and I asked what movie would be "most 80s" a frequent contender is "The Breakfast Club." Now, "The Breakfast Club" is definitely a very 80s movie, however, if it had never been made and someone pitched that movie at a studio (updating a few cultural references, of course), people would make that movie. However, "Adventures in Babysitting" is another story. There's nothing you could do to update the trends or cultural references that would make that movie any less 80s, it is 80s in its bones, and they wouldn't have made it the 70s or the 90s or any other era. Only in the 80s.

This means that most of these movies aren't "brilliant." A lot of them are, or at least feel like they are, written by committee. And as we all know, when people do something by committee it usually aims to the lowest common denominator, plays it safe, thinks in terms of marketing as opposed to art and they frequently attempt to be "hip" while actually being as edgy as a guidance counselor.

However, fortunately for us, and fortunately for "Tango & Cash," sometimes committees also go absolutely INSANE.

How did they go insane in this particular instance? Let's break it down, 80s style.

  • COCAINE Tons and tons of cocaine. I'm frankly amazed "Cocaine" does not receive a writing credit on this movie. This is a staple of the 80s. Everything feels rushed and excited and AWESOME and extreme, because everyone had cocaine pouring out of their eyeballs. This also causes movies to feel a little erratic. Or, in the case of "Tango & Cash," all the hell over the place.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE COCAINE THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES Have you watched it? You can practically hear the coked up pitch while you do. "There's a tanker truck, and a sports car and a helicopter! And then Sly... SHOOTS THE TANKER! And there's COCAAAAAAAINE!!!! And then Kurt Russel punches people!! Probably some Asian dude. And then they get sent to prison and they ESCAPE after KICKING ASS. When they escape, there'll be HUGE FANS WITH ROTATING BLADES and WIRES THEY SLIDE DOWN. And then there's a HOT BABE DANCING IN A CLUB, MAN, YEAH!!! AND THEN A HUGE TRUCK AND GUNS AND A WAREHOUSE AND EXPLOSIONS AND OH MY GOD I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS!!!!"

  • WEAPONS ANXIETY The "Second" Cold War. Russia. Iran-Contra. Rising urban violence. Punk and anarchy. Rising class tensions through economic disparity. In the 80s, people were scared, they were anxious and they were thinking about weapons ALL THE TIME. Who had them? Should THEY get some? Action movies reflected this by loading up their heroes to the hilt. Gone were Clint Eastwood and his Magnum. In were Rambo, Schwarzenegger, the big guns. (Trivia note: in "Terminator 2" the gun used in the Cyberdyne scene was so heavy only Arnold Schwarzenegger could carry it!) It was also there in movies like the "Beverly Hills Cop" series, where Judge Reinhold's character has his gun fixation, and in "Stripes," with the awesome Urban Assault Vehicle.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE WEAPONS THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES "Tango & Cash" again steps up the game into parodic levels. So. Many. Guns. Guns in cars, guns in boots, exploding fake dog heads. Weapons weapons weapons weapons weapons. They shove a grenade down a man's pants, then push him down the stairs to his crotch-exploding death. You could argue that "Rambo" 2 and 3 outweapon "Tango & Cash," but we have to look at context. "Rambo" is in 'Nam, man. You've GOT to weapon up in the 'Nam! Tango and Cash are in L.A., and while weaponing up there isn't a BAD idea, they definitely take it to the extreme. I'd say they definitely take it over Judge Reinhold levels, and if you're topping The Judge, you know you're meaning business.

  • THE MONEY The 80s were the era of Wall Street. "Greed is good!" Everything was about the money. In action movies the villains started changing from the punks, the violent bullies and harsh killers and became The Money Men. The bad guy was the guy behind the guy behind the guy. The puppetmasters. In this movie the bad guy is the awesome Jack Palance, vamping it up something fierce, playing the awesomely named Yves Perret.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE MONEY THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES Palance isn't a businessman, he's a business, man, and you'd better stay out of his business, DAMN! What exactly is Palance's business? Ummmm... being nefarious? He's a crime lord with a huge office, a giant facility full of employees and illegal dealings, and he's so good at being so money that, by all accounts, he doesn't even really need a front. The man pays his taxes just so he can put "Evildoer" as his occupation and watch no one be able to do a darn thing about it. He's networking with other money men, one of whom is the great James Hong. He's got the super-chic modern art deco office. So. Much. Money. But what puts this one over the top? The hero's playing Wall Street as well! Sly's Tango makes a ton of bank playing stocks. Why is he a cop, then? I'm glad you, and the movie, asked that question. Adventure, my friend. Adventure.

  • CORNY JOKES A staple of every 80s action movie, the throwing out of one-liners and lame zingers was actually legally required by 1982. Just look at the Schwarzenegger ouevre, which reached its zinger-flinging apex with 1987's "The Running Man."

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE CORNY JOKES THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES First of all, it has the added bonus of being a buddy cop movie where the two main characters start out as antagonists then end up working together, so you've got two good characters who throw zingers at each other, then combine their zinging powers at the bad guys. Secondly, the zingers in this movie... they're... they're really something else. Just look at the way Stallone responds to his captain telling him if he wanted to stare death in the eye, he should have gotten married. "Is that a proposal?" Is it? The joke doesn't make any sense, really, but Stallone sells it SO hard. Possibly too hard. Is he being ironic, parodying the stereotypical movie hard cop quip? Did he think the line was stupid and oversold it to underline how ridiculous it was? Or was he earnestly selling it? This is not the only time this happens in the movie, a line so silly, sold so hard that you have to question the intent. And for that, this movie reigns supreme.

  • OBTUSE ART VERSUS CONSUMERISM Just watch any random music video from the 80s and you'll see this. Baroque lighting, overly symbolic imagery, a striving to be serious, thoughtful and "arty" without actually having anything to say. Look at Robert Palmer videos. I'm sure that director felt he was saying something about beauty and Hollywood and conformity and whatever, but really he's just got a bunch of ladies in strange make-up and outfits dancing out of synch while poorly pretending to play instruments to a song about a woman being so fine a man forgot where he placed his money and also being addicted to love.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE OBTUSE ART VERSUS CONSUMERISM THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES Actually one of the things that first struck me was how good the movie looks. The film was directed (mostly) by Andrei Konchalovsky, a Russian filmmaker who, back in the motherland, had directed a number of critically acclaimed films, including adaptations of Chekhov and Turgenev, as well as a 4 hour epic, "Siberiade," about two families in a small Siberian town. Then he came to America and directed the insane and entertaining "Runaway Train," starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, and then "Tango & Cash." So the guy's got cred. And like I say, the movie looks good. The prison torture scene, the escape, Palance's lair, the club Teri Hatcher works at. It's all SUPER 80s designed, and interestingly enough Konchalsky left the movie near the end of filming over "creative differences" with the film's ending and Albert "Purple Rain" Magnoli was brought in to finish it up. No offense to Comrade Konchalovsky, but... creative differences? The ending wasn't fitting his "artistic vision" for "Tango & Cash"? That's WAAAAY 80s.

  • BIZARRE SUPPORTING CAST 80s action movies loved filling out their casts with oddball characters, the zanier the better.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE BIZARRE SUPPORTING CAST THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES Check the list -- James Hong, Clint Howard, Brion James, Michael J. Pollard, Robert Z'Dar, Jack Palance, Terri Hatcher, Michael Jeter, Geoffrey Lewis, Lewis Arquette and even a brief appearance by Billy Blanks.

  • THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR, EXCEPT... What would now be called "The Seagal Effect," as The Ponytailed One has built his entire career on it, The Peaceful Warrior, Except... effect is when you have the man who is peaceful and never kills anyone, except, you know, when it's awesome. Then he kills EVERYONE.

    HOW THIS MOVIE IS MORE THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR, EXCEPT... THAN OTHER 80s ACTION MOVIES This is hard because, honestly, I don't think anyone will ever do The Peaceful Warrior, Except... better or more extreme than Rambo does in "First Blood: Part 2." However, as I said earlier with Rambo, he's a bit of an exception. He's a former P.O.W. with PTSD. These dudes are just cops who are doing their job, they even make a point of it once about how they haven't ever killed anybody, but then, at the end of the movie, everybody's dying. EVERYBODY. They're shooting anything that moves, they're shoving grenades down pants, and they're making wacky quips while they're doing it. This kind of goes along with Obtuse Art Versus Consumerism, as this is a case of people wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to show how much they appreciate the peaceful, thoughtful officer of the law who may have to rough some dudes up on occasion, but then also they want these guys to be the biggest, baddest mothereffers who will kill anyone who looks at them funny.

So there you have it. Those are my arguments. By all means refute them, take issue, naysay. You know me, I love the feedback. In final summation, outside of 80s representational arguments, it's a ridiculously silly and enjoyable movie. It's main strength is Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, two guys I have a HUGE soft spot for. They are oddly charming dudes, especially Russell. If you're looking for goofy, mindless fun, you certainly won't go wrong.


One teeny-tiny Larger Thought prompted by Jake's piece: Wowee, do I ever love this new world where the line between "real critics" and "civilians" is so much more blurry than it used to be!

By the way, Jake Thomas is a pistol of a young performer. He has worked with The Wife and me on a number of different projects, and we've grown so fond of his talents that we've taken to writing roles specifically for him. Jake's a real resource. He has brains, wit, exuberance, and (though, to his credit, he'd shoot me for saying this) oodles of charm. He also has ease in front of the camera, energy on stage, and a lot more range than most performers can summon up.

Speaking of range ... In the last year Jake has taken to doing spoken-word work; the microphone and Jake Thomas turn out to get along really well. The Wife and I exploited Jake ruthlessly -- er, make that "we cast him in numerous different roles" -- in the raucous and satirical audio entertainment that we recently produced, and Jake was terrif in them all.

Our favorite Jake performance so far is on that audiobook, in fact. Jake brought to hilarious life one of our main characters, a young Oklahoma community-college business major whose life-ambition is to become a web-porn mogul. The recipe for this guy went something like "a teaspoon of boyish sweetness, a cup of provincial rube-ishness, a hearty shake of native shrewdness, and horrifying amounts of tasteless enthusiasm" -- not an easy dish to zero in on. But Jake nailed the dude right away, and then ran with him.

Jake doesn't currently have a website. If you'd like to get in touch with him -- or, in fact, if you'd like a link to the website that The Wife and I have made for our raucous audiobook -- write me at michaelblowhard at that gmaily place and I'll take care of it.



posted by Michael at June 6, 2009


Shoot, I need to watch this! I love this sort of thing -- I'm being reminded of Lethal Weapon -- and brilliant glimpse into the thinking of the '80s' as well. So that's why all the firepower, huh?

Posted by: Bhetti on June 6, 2009 2:52 PM

LOVE "The Seagal Effect". In particular with Mr. Seagal himself, I like The Patriot:
Possibly due to the added bonus for me of the father-daughter dynamic. Not made in the 80s, but there you go!

Posted by: Bhetti on June 6, 2009 3:00 PM

That was indeed some wonderful writing. God, I hated the 80s.

Posted by: green mamba on June 6, 2009 6:29 PM

My vote for most coked-up 1980s movie is "Beverly Hills Cop II." My wife's only comment on it was: "I kept wondering why Wilt Chamberlain wasn't in it," which, oddly enough, was something I had wondered about while watching it, too.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on June 6, 2009 8:07 PM

True, “Tango and Cash” did have Jack Palance spraying the camera lens as he snarled the words” Cash, Tango! Tango, Cash!” Not to mention a scantily-clad Terri Hatcher before she hit the wall rictus-first at eighty per but ricocheted off because her facial muscles were like titanium alloy from enough Botox injections to suffocate a family of Kodiak bears. But what else did it have?

Did it have Sam Elliott’s ‘stache, surely one of the wonders of Western civilization? Did it have NYU philosophy grad-turned-cooler Patrick Swayze reading a Jim Harrison novel without even moving his lips? Kelly Lynch naked? The triumph of American righteousness when the townspeople shotgun to death a helpless Ben Gazzarra? Kelly Lynch naked again? And did I mention Sam Elliott’s ‘stache?

“Road House!” Hell yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Posted by: Kudzu Bob on June 6, 2009 10:25 PM

This is turning into a great list, as well as a great set of appreciations.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 6, 2009 11:46 PM

I always hated this movie and now I know exactly why. Thanks, Jake!

Posted by: Bryan on June 6, 2009 11:46 PM

Thanks for reminding me why I loved the '80's, considering what came before and after...

Posted by: tschafer on June 7, 2009 12:17 AM

I have to nominate Tequila Sunrise as the most 80s movie ever. It's got Kurt Russell as well. And Mel Gibson. And cocaine. And hot tubs. Etc.

Posted by: JV on June 7, 2009 1:30 AM

How about Bad Boys and Bad Boys II as the 80s-est? They're 95/03, but they meet these tests. Michael Bay may be the master of the 80s rules.

Posted by: tom on June 7, 2009 10:50 AM

tom, that post was totally coked out. Two Eighties movies one and two decades later! That's totally awesome.

Posted by: Ray Butler on June 7, 2009 11:04 AM

Hello! The author here!

Great comments, a lot of good names to add to the list. A good friend of mine actually recommended Beverly Hills Cop 2, I may have to go back and check it out. I thought about bringing up Roadhouse, but to me Roadhouse exists outside of time and space. You cannot tether it to a decade, it is far too awesome, too insane, too Roadhouse. Tequila Sunrise, though, that's a fantastic nomination.

Now I want to go on an 80s Action Movie Watching Spree. Commando, anyone? Who's with me?

Much thanks to the Blowhards for showing me some love, I'm honored to be on the site and glad people are digging it.

Posted by: Jake Thomas on June 7, 2009 11:38 AM

God, I just relived the whole movie-going decade in one post. That was awesome Jake--thanks!

Posted by: Steve on June 7, 2009 12:23 PM

The only thing I'd add is the rampant '80s-style gay panic/homoeroticism. TANGO & CASH is tops in that category too.

Posted by: Steve on June 7, 2009 2:06 PM

Harrumph. There is an entire #%^& genre of 80s movies that was entirely peculiar to the 1980s and that everyone here seems to have forgotten about. Much more uniquely 80s than Tango and Cash. Of what do I speak? The encounter of "straight-laced" (or is it strait-laced?) persons with crazy critters from the streets, who lead them on a wild ride but leave them somehow improved and better able to enjoy life.

A short and by no means comprehensive list: Desperately Seeking Susan (the first of its kind?); Demme's Something Wild; Scorsese's After Hours; and of course, that infamous flop, Bonfire of the Vanities. The entire basic premise of these movies wouldn't work today, because a) everyone has gone "street" and prides him/herself on it; and b) the street, though still not exactly safe, has become rather less dangerous than it was in the 1980s.

When I think of the 1980s, those are the movies that come to mind for me.


Posted by: aliasclio on June 7, 2009 3:40 PM

Steve, I am completely ashamed I didn't think of that! The gay fear/homoerotic overtones is HUGE for those flicks!

Clio, those movies are a whole other post, as I was trying to stick within "action" flicks, but definitely in contention for "most 80s." I would say "Desperately Seeking Susan" is right up there for Most 80s Thing Ever, not just film. I love "After Hours." Griffin Dunne's delivery of "I'll probably get blamed for that," is one of the biggest laughs a film has ever gotten out of me.

I would argue that the blueprint for those kind of films is still around, with movies like all the dance flicks that are so popular right now where a kid who dances "on the streets" joins the preppy conservatory and shakes those kids up. Also, perhaps the "wild women" of Something Wild and Desperately Seeking Susan have morphed into the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl of today's Garden States and Elizabethtowns?

Posted by: Jake Thomas on June 7, 2009 5:10 PM

Another and closely-related 80s genre though not so formulaic, was the anti-yuppie movie. It appeared in many different forms and settings, and not necessarily contemporary ones.

Amadeus was an anti-yuppie film (because it said that working hard couldn't always get you what you wanted); Wall Street, of course; The Flamingo Kid; and perhaps all Woody Allen's 1980s movies, which always managed to make rich, educated New Yorkers sound so fatuous.

But no film nowadays hates yuppies, even under another name. I think its because yuppies too closely resemble the Republican stereotype of Democrats: well-to-do college-educated people who know nothing about real life. Since the mid-1990s, when Hollywood wants to attack the well-off, it makes anti-suburban or anti-family-life films like American Beauty, Happiness, The Virgin Suicides, and The Ice Storm.

Posted by: aliasclio on June 7, 2009 6:32 PM

"Tequila Sunrise" Fun Fact:

The role ultimately played by Kurt Russell was originally going to be filled by Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Pat Riley, but Riley, a fairly rational individual, got cold feet about making his acting debut in a big role in a big movie. Kurt Russell took over Riley's role, but they made him keep Riley's hair-do and wardrobe.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on June 8, 2009 2:56 AM

Don't forget to add Cobra to the film fest.



Posted by: Marion Cobretti on June 8, 2009 10:33 AM

Great post and additional contenders.

My contender is:

"Night of the Comet"

Because it has the Valley Girl vibe (and Valley Girl is timeless, so doesn't fit the criteria), so it has the hair and the costumes, but then it has zombies and lotsa guns.

Great one-liners, too. My favorite it when the younger sister discovers the dissolved puddle that used to be their dog, and she cocks her head, and in full Valley Girl, says, "Muffy?" (or whatever the dog's name was).

Posted by: yahmdallah on June 8, 2009 1:07 PM

Night of the Comet. Good one.

Posted by: JV on June 8, 2009 2:14 PM

I was going to suggest "Heathers", but that's the first great post-eighties movie. D'oh!

Posted by: PatrickH on June 8, 2009 5:24 PM

PatrickH links to Clio! Aha! Now that I think of it, I've never seen the two of them in the same room...

Posted by: JV on June 9, 2009 1:13 AM

Actor Jon Voight, the master of ceremonies, opened the evening with a series of sharp attacks on Obama, something many Republican leaders have been hesitant to do in light of the president's high approval ratings. ...
see more: Jon Voight-video

Posted by: zredy on June 9, 2009 12:10 PM

PatrickH links to Clio! Aha! Now that I think of it, I've never seen the two of them in the same room...

Not if I have anything to say about it.

Posted by: Tupac Chopra on June 9, 2009 7:31 PM

Relationships at desultorily can frame you feel like you are in a Las Vegas casino. You go on a hot and it feels like you can do no wrong when it comes to dating. The next time you go into a slump slash is so overwhelming you wonder if you will ever win anything again. No matter what you do it turns out wrong and ruins the whole dating relationship. The good is when it comes to on cue dating you possess an ample budget of opportunities to correct the and get it right the next time around. However if your aim play (with) design dating is to tarry in the slump the easiest way imaginable is to bet on a sure loser. What's a sure loser? Getting into an on range relationship mess (with) someone who: 1. Always Cries in Their Beer You've command some leathery domesticated in your life. Who 't? But you encounter someone at an mesh dating who is singing the blues. If something good and uplifting comes along they enjoy a way of turning into something depressing or trivial to the juncture it makes no difference. You would think these folks would be by themselves a lot but they are not. Misery loves company and once you sun fiddle (with) their plight you can find yourself easily logging on to chat monkey (with) concerning the "bad" . 2. The Not So Good Mystery Novel A little and aloofness can raise anyone's level. It's just human nature blab the someone says or scoop the more the other person wants to know. The matter is your on train dating partner is to the climax of ridiculous. They rarely if ever give a direct answer to any of your questions. If they do it's usually fuzzy and they wind up the subject. This may be setting your heart a flutter to know more. But what it be doing is setting off your instinct's alarm bells. 3. They Love You. What's Your Name Again? The two of you retain a lot of fun fool (with) your online chats. You hold swiller deadly comfortable sharing personal but any speak of love manufacture you exceedingly ( leery. Love is not a word anyone throw around and if your date is doing just patter ( when you occupy not met offline yet) you may own a obsessive person on your monitor; either enjoy or someone who is deliberately on your emotions. Scammers do this a lot. As much as we would like to no relationship is a sure thing. The best plans can result in failure. On the other hand not it a second thought may land you in the middle of the best relationship you command ever had. Who knows? But if you want a sure loser than for any or all the above is a great way to go respecting it.

plenty of fish site dating worlds biggest onlinedating chat dating rules during 1st year soberiety older women younger men dating website content matchmaking

Posted by: scieclism on June 25, 2009 7:23 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?