Two decades ago I graduated from Madison High School, where the most commonly asked question was, "What's that smell?" This weekend is my 20-year reunion, and in preparation, through the magic of DVD, I've been reliving much of those glorious years that saw the introduction of Madonna to pop culture, the birth of the AIDS epidemic and the re-election of Ronald Reagan to the office of president.
Rick James: Super Freak Live 1982—While pretty much everyone else was into Michael Jackson, my true allegiance was to Rick James. Even after he went to jail for burning some woman with a crack pipe, I never wavered in my devotion to the king of punk funk. This concert, recorded in Germany in 1982 during Rick's prime, is the motherlode of funk. James is backed up by the Stone City Band, and they are all clad in outfits that look like Earth, Wind & Fire meets Parliament-Funkadelic meets KISS. From the opening chords of "Ghetto Life" to the "Super Freak" finale, it doesn't get much better than this.
Purple Rain (1984)—Yes, the acting is terrible and the clothes are...well...the clothes are certainly something else. But from a filmmaking standpoint, the cinematography and the editing are awesome. And then there's the soundtrack. Check out the double-disc anniversary edition, which features among other things MTV's coverage of the Purple Rain premiere. Mark Goodman interviewing Eddie Murphy, who's wearing a sports jacket but no shirt and a bandanna around his neck, is the coolest thing you'll ever see. Suddenly, the incident with the transvestite makes sense.
The Last Dragon (1985)—Wow! The 1980s really sucked. Whoever thought a romantic-comedy kung-fu musical was a good idea should have just watched Rudy Ray Moore's Disco Godfather. Still, this was one of my favorite movies when it came out. Back then Vanity was hot, and Taimak was cool. Now both seem to be in desperate need of acting lessons.
Tuff Turf (1985)—I saw this at the old Broadway Theater when it first came out, and a rat ran across my foot. Honestly, I haven't watched the DVD yet, but it was on sale for $4. How could I pass it up? Besides, I recall the chick from the Witch Mountain movies getting naked.
Michael Jackson: Video Greatest Hits, HIStory—Few things—other than crack, AIDS and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall—define the era I was trapped in high school better than Michael Jackson, which is why I watched this video anthology. The videos are not in chronological order, which I assume is so people won't notice his progressive transformation from an "Off the Wall" black guy with a wide nose into a hideously mutilated nut job. If you can keep from laughing out loud during the video for "Bad," you're stronger than I am.
Anything starring Chuck Norris—It was obvious Chuck was a terrible actor, even back then. But watching films like Missing in Action, Lone Wolf McQuade and Invasion U.S.A. with the wisdom and maturity the past 20 years have afforded me, it is clear that Chuck Norris was exactly the sort of movie star America deserved. After all, we elected Ronald Reagan twice.