Friday, February 3, 2012

Times Square

Times Square came out in 1980, and I'm pretty sure I saw it then, at the Coronet Theater. (This is another one I'll have to look up on old newspaper microfilm!)

Regardless of when or where I first saw it, it was instant love. I bought the soundtrack, played the hell out of (most) of it, and rewatched the film many, many times growing up. It addressed a kind of rebellion I'd always admired, but was never brave enough to embark on during my youth.

It's worth watching for a slew of reasons, not the least of which, it's a great portrait of a pre-Disneyfied Times Square, New York, and, in fact, the movie is partially about the gentrification of the area, and how this was bad thing. I haven't actually been to either the new or the old Times Square, but viewing this movie and comparing it to images from the new Times Square, well, it really is kind of startling how different they are. I imagine this must have been pretty shocking a change for New Yorkers, because I know how freaking bizarre it would be to see mid-Market in San Francisco suddenly full of neon signs, tourists, and name brand stores, and free of the...colorful characters that currently populate it...

Another reason to watch it is because of how great the two leads are. Trini Alvarado made some things prior to this, and would gain a modest amount of fame in years to follow, but Robin Johnson, who makes her debut in Times Square, never really had a major film role after this, which is such a loss. She's a natural, had a fantastic voice, and I think she would have only gotten better as she got older. (She has a brief role in another great movie, Baby, It's You, and a non-speaking cameo in Martin Scorsese's After Hours, but really, that's it.)

Apparently, the relationship between the two girls was supposed to be more overtly a romantic one in the original version of the movie, but the director didn't get final cut, so that aspect of the movie was toned down in the final release. I can see why this might be bothersome, but I think the relationship between the girls is pretty obviously a romantic one, at least to one of them, and I think that's enough. By keeping that aspect subtle, the story becomes more about the nature of female friendship, especially during the early teen years, and is therefore a bit more universal.

Director Allan Moyle talks about this, (along with Robin Johnson, who has totally lost her accent and raspy voice!), on the DVD release of the movie, but, alas, that DVD is now out of print. Luckily I bought a copy back in 2000, and that's what I rewatched. The whole movie still holds up, for the most part. I'd always had a bit of a problem with Tim Curry's character, and that hasn't really changed. I don't know if it's Curry, or the character, but he kind of grates. Also, the girls' weird venture into a kind of performance art that involves tossing TVs off of rooftops doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but maybe it's not supposed to. Also, the girls are wearing some really, really bad wigs during the first few scenes of the movie, and I imagine a scene of them changing their hair must have been cut...

But other than that, I still love Times Square to death. I mentioned the soundtrack earlier, and that's the final reason it's worth watching. Allan Moyle eventually had a big problem with some of the songs that ended up in the movie, and I'll agree, there's some crap in there. But what's not crap is pretty remarkable, including songs by The Pretenders, Gary Neuman, The Cars, XTC, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Patti Smith, Suzi Quatro, Joe Jackson, AND The Ramones. Whoa.

Like I said, the DVD is out of print, and not available on Netflix, but it is available on YouTube. So why don't you just watch the whole movie right here, right now! Come on, we can all watch it together and have a virtual slumber party. Pass the Jiffy Pop!

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