The year was 1984. Dr. Cliff Huxtable took up residency on the televisions of America. A Canadian astronaut finally made it to space. And, most importantly, two Miami cops rendered socks completely irrelevant.
Miami Vice wasn’t just a show. It was a sensory explosion of pastel shirts, throbbing Jan Hammer synth scores, hair gel, neon signs, saxophone solos, explosions, sex, sand and off-screen cocaine use.
To honor its legacy, Re-Run Theater celebrates its third annual Vice Fest (Hollywood Theatre; 7 pm Wednesday, Aug. 27). The night features a pair of classic episodes from Season 2—including one with a legendary appearance by Frank Zappa—plus horrendous music videos from stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, vintage TV commercials and plenty of wine coolers. The program also includes Portland Vice, a short spoof film by Nick “Phantom Hillbilly” Wells, who programs Re-Run Theater.
As with many relics from the ’80s, there’s a tendency to mock Miami Vice and its shoulder pads, brick-sized car phones and boat shoes. But despite its cornball aspects, Miami Vice made its mark on everything from creator Michael Mann’s Manhunter and Heat to Lethal Weapon, To Live and Die in L.A. and Drive.
“The only thing you can criticize Miami Vice for is the thing you can criticize all great television for: Television has its limitations,” Wells says. “People get shot, and there’s no blood. Everything is clean. Other than that, as a television show, it holds up. Michael Mann is ground zero for ‘neon noir,’ the idea that light is the new dark. It’s all about the sinister flickering light of the neon.”
Wells says the key to enjoying Miami Vice is to see it as a period piece and embrace its flaws. In this case, that means believing every dealer Crockett and Tubbs takes down is the biggest dealer on the planet. And that they’re actually competent undercover cops.
“It’s the biggest suspension of disbelief in television,” Wells says. “Crockett is an undercover cop who reports daily to the police station. I believe he’s even had his badge in his fucking wallet. Is everyone so fucked up they didn’t think to put a tail on him? The answer is yes.”
And if you can’t suspend your disbelief? Well, that’s what the wine coolers are for.
- The NW Film Center’s rooftop film series concludes with Martin Scorsese’s 1982 cult masterpiece The King of Comedy, with Jerry Lewis as a talk-show host, Robert De Niro as a psychotic comedian, and the creepiest use of Liza Minnelli this side of Arrested Development. Hotel deLuxe. 8 pm Thursday, Aug. 28.
- Among other things, the great Major League showed us Charlie Sheen’s remarkable range, this time as a drunken womanizer who’s also a baseball player. Laurelhurst Theater. Aug. 29-Sept 4.
- Bizarre even by the standards of director Terry Gilliam, 1988’s great (and financially disastrous) The Adventures of Baron Munchausen includes a wonderfully weird turn by Robin Williams as the King of the Moon. Sigh. Just go see it. It’s way better than Mrs. Doubtfire. Academy Theater. Aug. 29-Sept 4.
- The 1973 French oddity Fantastic Planet is an animated parable about slavery among humanoid aliens. Which is to say, this one’s not for the kiddies. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. 7:30 pm Friday, Aug. 29.
- Fritz the Cat, the 1972 story of a super-horny cat, became legend as the first X-rated cartoon. Which is to say, this one’s reeeally not for the kiddies. Whitsell Auditorium. 9 pm Friday, Aug. 29.
- Flicks on the Bricks ends the summer with Frozen, because nothing says Labor Day like wintry landscapes and the wonderful voice of Adele Dazeem. Pioneer Courthouse Square. 7 pm Friday, Aug. 29.
- The Kiggins screens Stand by Me, because it wouldn’t be a summer weekend in Oregon without a tweenage Corey Feldman hanging out in Oregon. Kiggins Theater. Opens Friday, Aug. 28.
- Oh, hey! It’s tweenage Corey Feldman hanging out in Oregon again. The Goonies never say die. Especially in repertory theaters. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 and 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 7 pm Sunday, Aug. 29-31.
- The Hollywood honors the late Lauren Bacall with a screening of John Huston’s classic potboiler Key Largo. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Saturday, Aug. 30.
- The NW Film Center’s Wes Anderson retrospective wraps up with Moonrise Kingdom, the director’s return to the world of precocious children and adolescent love. Saturday’s screening is followed by Ken Loach’s Black Jack at 8:30 pm, while Sunday pairs Anderson’s film with Francis Truffaut’s Small Changes at 7 pm. Whitsell Auditorium. 6 pm Saturday, 4:45 pm Sunday, Aug. 30-31.