"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Flashdance

If all you care about is plot, FLASHDANCE isn’t very good. There’s not much to it, just two central threads, both lightly sketched. First is the story of a talented young dancer who wants to apply to a ballet academy, but believes that her modern style will be rejected by snobby gatekeepers. We’ve seen so many more detailed variations on that theme in BREAKIN’, STEP UP, CENTER STAGE, STREET DANCE, etc. that this doesn’t seem like much.

The second thread is a romance between her and her boss, who’s twice her age, is completely transparent that he’s interested in her because he saw her do a sexy dance, is not particularly hot himself, keeps hitting on her after she says no, pisses her off by secretly using his connections to get her an audition she wanted to earn, and is forgiven without ever doing anything to make amends. At best, you understand her having a fling she’ll regret later, and hope she broke it off within the week. It’s hardly a romance for the ages.

And yet I kinda loved FLASHDANCE, because it feels like every other thing besides the plot goes above and beyond. In the case of the cinematography it goes above and beyond and loops back under and then goes above again. It’s Donald Peterman, who had shot WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and a couple others. He later became Ron Howard’s guy (SPLASH, COCOON, GUNG HO, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS) and Barry Sonnenfeld’s guy (ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES, GET SHORTY, MEN IN BLACK) and he did STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. Okay, I’m not sure what to make any of that, but he also did POINT BREAK, and that’s an impressive credit.

Maybe the secret to the great visuals is director Adrian Lyne. This was his second movie, after the similarly gorgeous-looking FOXES. He’d mainly done commercials. I think he was seen as a hip up-and-comer, because they went to him after David Cronenberg and Brian De Palma turned it down.

Jennifer Beals was 20 and had only been in MY BODYGUARD when she starred as Alex Owens, who by day works as a welder in a huge steel mill that looks like an excavation site on an alien planet, and by night dances on stage at a bar called Mawby’s. It’s not the same as stripping, which she does not want to do, repeatedly turning down offers from sleazeball Johnny C (Lee Ving, AMERICAN POP, BLACK MOON RISING) over at Zanzibar. Wikipedia calls what she does “sensual dancing” and “a cabaret.” Sexiness is definitely a central topic of the performances, but also this is definitely dancing.

There were pretty much three things I knew about this movie. The first was that she does that famous thing where she leans back in the chair and pulls the string and the bucket of water pours on her. The second was the song “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, which I remember hearing on the radio all the time as a kid. And the third was the song “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara, which believe it or not holds a meaningful memory for me.

My dad was not a guy who generally liked, listened to or talked about music. He would sometimes like the things my mom liked or go to a concert she wanted to go to, but he did not have, like, favorite bands or songs or any albums of his own like every other member of the family. It just wasn’t an interest of his. But one day he and I were in the car – a pretty cool red Chevy Nova with black interior that was torture on hot summer days – running errands or something, and “What a Feeling” came on on the radio.

“I like this song,” I said.

“I do too!” he said, and we went straight to a record store and bought a 45 of it. So it was kind of our song, and I’ve cherished that memory, especially since he died. Honestly, I had been wanting to watch the movie for a while and delayed it, worried it might make me too emotional.

I was fine, but surprised that both “What a Feeling” and the bucket drop happen right at the beginning of the movie. We see Alex riding to work on her ten speed, at work in her gear, welding, and then at Mawby’s in her underwear, dancing. One of the guys from the mill brings the owner, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri, whose only previous credited role was as Lucky Luciano in the mini-series GANGSTER WARS), just so he can surprise him by telling him she works for him. These men must be here to ogle – the camera substitutes for their eyes by heavily focusing on her ass and crotch – but it’s really impressive on many other levels too. The light that silhouettes her not only hides Beals’ dance double, but makes the whole thing as dramatic as it is hot. And after she dumps that water on her head she dances around and it splashes off of her, like a dog after a bath. There’s a gag about some unsuspecting diners getting wet, but others receive the mist coming off of her like they’re Fab 5 Freddy and it’s Nola Darling’s bath water.

Interacting with the chair must’ve inspired Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation chair thing, right? Many of her moves here remind me of Janet’s most famous brother, and that makes sense – choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday later did CAPTAIN EO. Another MJ-like touch is that we hear the sounds of Alex’s movements – skin slapping against skin, shoes sliding on wood. And for the record she may not be doing it backwards, but she is doing it in heels.

As the movie goes on and we see more of the performances by Alex and her Mawby’s co-workers, each using new choreography, songs and costumes (one of them she does in kabuki-like makeup), I wondered if the regulars at Mawby’s (who include a dialogue-less Robert Wuhl) are meant to be getting their boners from something extraordinary, or if in the reality of this movie this kind of thing is normal. I think the answer is the former, because associate producer Lynda Obst says in the extras that the movie was inspired by a club in Toronto where the dancers put this kind of work and individuality into their performances, and she thought a story about them could be “a girls’ ROCKY.”

Hey! I totally saw the ROCKY parallels, including a climactic audition where it’s only important that she danced well, and we don’t even find out if she gets in. It also foreshadows the music video style editing of ROCKY IV.

There are many ways that this seems more aimed at men (both gay and straight) than women, but it does seem to have been received as an inspirational story for many women, as intended. Considering it’s the first movie that Don Simpson (writer of CANNONBALL) and Jerry Bruckheimer (producer of AMERICAN GIGOLO, THIEF and CAT PEOPLE) produced together, it’s nice to have that music video style and vibe without the ass-slapping bro-yness of TOP GUN and BAD BOYS. I think that’s why it could be infuential to non-macho movies like PURPLE RAIN.

Alex lives in some kind of warehouse, with the entrance in an alley. Pretty cool. She has a dog who worries about her when she’s late, and she asks him “Did you get laid today?” when she gets home. She has plenty of room here to practice and store costumes.

I don’t think anybody talks to her at the day job, or she doesn’t talk to them, but we get to know her family from Mawby’s. She likes the other dancers, but she’s best friends with a waitress named Jeanie (Sunny Johnson, WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM), who’s chasing her own dream of ice dancing. And Jeanie is dating the cook, Richie (Kyle T. Heffner, YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE), who begs Mawby for chances to do standup between dancers. He’s absolutely terrible at it (and relies heavily on Pollock insults) but his high-pitched laugh at his own jokes and stubborn drive to keep doing it despite seeing people’s reactions made me start to like him. He kinda reminds me of Shelly from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III.

As the song says, FLASHDANCE is about taking your passion and making it happen, but there’s not the kind of momentum that implies. It’s more of an improvisatory hang out movie about working class Pittsburghers appreciating or training for creative expression, especially movement. I realized the movie was really taking me in when there were a bunch of scenes in a row just about that. First, Alex and friends work out together in a stylish scene with mostly a white void for a background, set to “I Love Rock ’n Roll.” In the very next scene they’re walking home and come across the Rock Steady Crew breakdancing in the street (I’m not sure what they’re doing in Pittsburgh, but just go with it). The ladies stop and watch, applaud, do a few moves with them. Time passes for what could be hours, judging by the shifting crowds between edits. In the scene after that they cross a busy intersection where the camera stops to admire a traffic cop giving some extra spice to all his arm movements. And then Alex comes back and starts imitating him. After that there’s a brief dinner table scene that establishes some things with Jeanie’s parents, but from there we go right into Jeanie and Alex ice skating.

You see what I mean? This is not a movie about plot. Fuck plot. This is better.

We don’t get to know the other dancers at Mawby’s too well, but we do see them dance, and they have cool names like Heels (Pink Floyd backup singer Durga McBroom), Tina Tech (Cynthia Rhodes, DIRTY DANCING) and Sunny (Liz Sagal, younger sister of Katey Sagal, former Doublemint Twin, co-star of Double Trouble, member of Cherry Bomb in HOWARD THE DUCK, and writer for TV shows ranging from Mad About You to Banshee). Even hanging out with that asshole Johnny C is fun sometimes. He has some funny insults for his slow-witted sidekick Cecil (Malcolm Danare, POPCORN, GODZILLA).

But yeah, there’s the whole thing about Nick pursuing her, and her deciding to fuck him. He comes up to her when she’s reading Vogue on a lunch break at work, tells her he saw her dance, isn’t even smooth about it. This is so gross as a conversation and inappropriate for a boss, but even accepting the transparent “I am talking to you because I noticed you’re hot” nature of the exchange you gotta worry about the powers of observation there. How did he not notice the one woman he works with is stunningly beautiful until he saw her near-naked doing a sexy dance? What a doofus!

She likes him, but she keeps saying she won’t date her boss. He gets his shot because he’s in his car watching – stalking her, I’m pretty sure! – when Johnny C. threatens her in a parking lot and punches Richie. Nick intervenes, gives Alex a ride home, she again says she won’t date her boss, so he says “Fine, you’re fired. I’ll pick you up at 8.” And we can assume she finds that charming. (I believe it was a not-acceptable-by-today’s-standards joke, but I actually don’t remember if we saw her at work after this.)

Nouri hadn’t done THE HIDDEN or AMERICAN YAKUZA yet, or even his voice role in GOBOTS: BATTLE OF THE ROCK LORDS, so it’s unclear why Alex would be into him. But she can do what she wants. We know from seeing her in confession that she’s been horny for a while. When they date she is the aggressor and rocks his world, but later she goes to a play and sees him seemingly on a date with another woman (Belinda Bauer, WINTER KILLS, ROBOCOP 2, POISON IVY II). Turns out to be his ex-wife who he sees once a year for an arts commission thing, but Alex only finds that out after riding her bike to his mansion late at night, throwing a rock through a fancy window, yelling “You bastard!” and then riding off. She is 100% in the wrong in this incident but also I 100% agree with her.

It was weird to see this for the first time now, and get to the scene where she brings him back to her place and removes her bra from under her stretched out heather grey sweatshirt, and realize that I was looking at a moving version of a picture I’ve seen a million times on the cover of the movie and the soundtrack album. I think I always assumed it was a posed portrait, because the lighting is so perfect, but that’s just what the whole movie looks like.

At the end of course she gets an audition in front of uptight ballet academy admissions officers, and has the audacity to play “What a Feeling” on a boombox and do all her modern dance shit, incorporating some ballet moves she knows but also things she’s learned at Mawby’s (repeating moves from the opening water dance) and from watching breakdancers, and probly the traffic cop, and who knows what else. The Jeet Kune Do of dancing.

Rocky Steady Crew member Crazy Legs not only appears in the breakdancing scene, but put on a wig and did her backspin for her in the audition. Acrobatics in the audition were performed by gymnast Sharon Shapiro. But Beals’ main dance and body double throughout the movie was Marine Jahan. Since she was not credited, many assumed it was all Beals and were angry to learn otherwise. (A similar controversy happened with BLACK SWAN, although I believe the double was credited in that case.) Luckily Jahan was compensated with the important gig of being rotoscoped to give Snoopy his moves in It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown. She’s also seen in STREETS OF FIRE.

The music is supervised by Phil Ramone (no relation) and produced by Giorgio Moroder (I’m guessing that’s Bruckheimer’s doing, based on his previous productions). Since I started collecting soundtracks on vinyl I’ve really gained a new appreciation for Moroder as the guy who produced a ton of pretty good ones that aren’t too expensive to buy. SCARFACE is the one I really want, and I haven’t found that for cheap. But CAT PEOPLE and AMERICAN GIGOLO (with “Call Me” by Blondie) are outstanding. And I guess he’s not the only producer on TOP GUN but I think that one counts. I also have FOXES, METROPOLIS and OVER THE TOP. I like him best for his instrumental synth stuff, but he produced some pretty slick disco-y pop music. My favorites on FLASHDANCE besides the two famous ones are “Manhunt” by Karen Kamon and “He’s a Dream” by Shandi.

Critics lambasted FLASHDANCE for its primary strength of being style over substance. Roger Ebert summed up the joy of it well in describing why he hated it:

Meanwhile, the movie has a disconcerting way of getting sidetracked with big dance scenes. The heroine works in the most improbable working-class bar ever put on film, a joint named Mawby’s that has a clientele out of the Miller’s TV ads, stage lighting reminiscent of Vegas, go-go dancers who change their expensive costumes every night and put on punk rock extravaganzas and never take off all their clothes and never get shouted at by the customers for not doing so.

As much as the movie was frowned upon by the not-liking-FLASHDANCE elites, it was a sensation, staying in the top ten for 15 weeks, making more than $200 million at the box office (the third biggest earner of 1983), and the album was also a smash – in fact, it knocked 17-week-champion Thriller off of the #1 spot on the Billboard charts for a couple weeks. It received nine Grammy nominations including Album of the Year (losing to Thriller, duh) and won three of them, including Best Instrumental Performance for “Love Theme from Flashdance” (which is questionable though because it beat Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”.)

And though it may be one of those movies that people would defend by saying “Well, it’s not trying to be an Oscar winner,” it actually did win an Oscar for my dad and my favorite song. “Maniac” was also nominated, as were cinematographer Peterman (losing to Sven Nykvist for FANNY AND ALEXANDER) and editors Bud S. Smith (SORCERER, DARKMAN) and Walt Mulconery (PERSONAL BEST), who lost to THE RIGHT STUFF. They actually did win best editing at the British Academy Awards, plus Golden Globes for “What a Feeling” and Moroder’s score.

Two people who were a little bummed about the film’s massive success were Maureen Marder and Gina Healey, dancers at the Toronto club Gimlets who signed away their life rights for only $2,300 each. Screenwriter Tom Hedley (FIGHTING BACK) was a regular at the club who thought dancers like them would be a good subject for a movie and interviewed them. After he sold the concept to the production company Casablanca, they hired photographer and stylist Myron and Shirley Zabol (who say they were never compensated) to photograph the dancers for a pitch to Paramount. According to many involved other than Hedley, Marder’s day job as a construction worker was the main inspiration for Alex, while all seem to agree her performance style was inspired by Healey (who even wore kabuki makeup on stage and in those photos).

Hedley originally wrote a script under the title DEPOT BAR AND GRILL. He renamed it FLASHDANCE after “The moment that fashion, music, and dance collided into a single image. In a second, in a flash.”

When Paramount hired Joe Eszterhas (F.I.S.T.) to punch up the script, they flew him with Simpson, Bruckheimer and Lyne to watch, talk to (and allegedly sleep with, in one case) the dancers at Gimlets. Another writer, Katherine Reback (FOOLS RUSH IN) did an uncredited draft that Obst said “never got the credit that was due for bringing it back to the female voice.”

After the success of FLASHDANCE, Hedley and Obst tried to make a movie musical called STREET DANDY starring Michael Jackson as “a mime and fashion sensation,” and also talked to Jackson about playing Quasimodo in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. Sadly, I’m sure you know, neither happened.

Eszterhas would of course go on to write BASIC INSTINCT, SLIVER and SHOWGIRLS, famously one of the highest paid and horniest screenwriters of the ‘90s. In addition to CAPTAIN EO, choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday went on to do ROMANCING THE STONE, STREETS OF FIRE and DICK TRACY. And LIFE STINKS! Remember? There was a dance scene in that.

Lyne captured the zeitgeist at least one other time with FATAL ATTRACTION, plus JACOB’S LADDER and INDECENT PROPOSAL got their share of attention. He recently shot his first movie in 20 years, the Patricia Highsmith adaptation DEEP WATER starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas.

Beals followed this with THE BRIDE and got a bunch of undeserved shit about it, but she’s gone on to a great career in films including but not limited to VAMPIRE’S KISS, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, TURBULENCE 2: FEAR OF FLYING and THE BOOK OF ELI. The one real shame there is that this “girls’ ROCKY” didn’t become an ongoing franchise like boys’ ROCKY. Jeanie sadly couldn’t have come back, as actress Sunny Johnson tragically died a year later of an aneurysm. But maybe Rich would’ve gotten better at jokes, we could’ve gotten to know Heels better, they could’ve gone to a national competition, or international. I would’ve loved to see the ROCKY IV equivalent in this series.

But hey, we’re getting TOP GUN: MAVERICK some time. It’s not too late for FLASHDANCE: ALEX. She could easily have a daughter who dances now. Hopefully not with Nick.

further reading:

The information about the Gimlets dancers comes from this great article on Buzzfeed

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2021 at 10:35 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “Flashdance”

  1. Nope. 100% nope. Sorry, Vern, I respect your position but this is one place I cannot follow you. This movie contains the least amount of movie you could legally package into a movie without getting sued for consumer fraud. Sure, fuck plot. But are we also fucking drama? Conflict? Stakes? Catharsis? Characters? Literally anything that might make you give a shit for one second about what’s happening onscreen? You take away all that and all you’re left with are a series of gross white-dude-with-a-ponytail stroke fantasies. It is almost perversely uninvolving. It’s even less involving than 9 1/2 WEEKS, Lynne’s previous fashion catalog shoot in search of a film, a movie whose only reason to exist is to find new ways to light nipples. I’ve watched instructional videos that had more going on than this dude’s early movies. It’s not like I need Byzantine plotting to enjoy a movie but I need SOMETHING. It’s a hangout movie where you’d rather shoot yourself than hang out with these people. These filmmakers were so excited about the ways they could make things look and sound that they forgot to have anything worth looking at or listening to.

  2. You gotta love how Hollywood keeps offering every movie to every successful autheur, no matter if the project is right for them or not. “David Cronenberg’s FLASHDANCE” sounds as wrong as “The Coen Brothers’ JUDGE DREDD”, yet one part of me wishes I could travel to the alternate timelines where these movies actually happened.

  3. Okay, fine, the songs are kind of great. My favorite is “He’s A Dream.” The movie is basically a parasitic organism attached to the back of its soundtrack album.

  4. Yeah, Irene Cara rules. The problem is I’d rather repeat “What a Feeling” for FLASHDANCE’s entire runtime. I mean, it’s not a so-bad-it’s-good flick, it’s just a “nothingburger”. Probably would have had more fun watching Simpson and Bruckheimer worm their way around Hollywood at that time. At least there’d have been some laughs unlike this thing.

    But back to the lovely Miss Cara. She may not be a Kenny Loggins but her soundtrack work is universally awesome. Almost as joyous as the title track of this flick is “The Dream” from D.C. CAB.

    I miss the days of the soundtrack tie-in music video. I prefer it when they drag the cast into it but I’ll take these clips and her dancing through the streets.

  5. Speaking of music video tie-ins that include the cast (and clips!) from the movie, my favorite is this De Palma directed one from Body Double. And as an added Flashdance bonus, he has a male dancer in drag recreate Flashdance’s most famous moment, which of course is also a reference to the notoriety of the use of a male body double in Flashdance, in a tie-in video to a movie called Body Double. As the kids say ‘there’s levels to this shit.’

    FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD - Relax (Body Double Version)

    Directed By Brian DePalmaTwitter & Instagram @Videodromedisco

  6. I never once doubted that she got into the school. Huh. I never would’ve thought her excitement at the end was just over dancing like she wanted. I thought it was about getting in. Thanks for pointing that out Vern.

    The thing that I can never get past about these movies where someone comes in and shakes up the establishment of stuffy dancing is that it is 100% not how dancers think. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t say that for sure because I was never into ballet, specifically premiere ballet, but I did dance throughout high school and dancers are always learning and exploring new dances. I wouldn’t say old ballet snobs would know hip hop dancing, but they would for fucking sure know jazz and modern, which is what she was doing here. Jazz dancing is what has been done in Broadway musicals for decades and the modern dance pioneer Martha Graham started like in the 1920s and even though what she was doing was kind of the opposite of ballet, she was still very, very well known and immensely respected. Anyway, it’s not like it ruins movies like this for me and it’s not like the people on a board for a school would necessarily have the same thinking as dancers. I just think it’s kind of ridiculous.

  7. Loved the songs, I know I crushed on Beale and my sister crushed on Michael Nouri (she would have brained you for that “not particularly hot” comment, Vern!). Apart from that I cannot recollect a single thing about this movie. Seems the Lyne filmography elsewhere is also littered with Females of Unbearable Hotness being the cause for much domestic strife, leading to HIM fucking around (Fatal Attraction), HER fucking around (Unfaithful), HIM pimping HER out for a million bucks (Indecent Proposal), HER involved in escapades of escalating kinkiness (9 1/2 weeks) not to mention his own adaptation of Classic Literature’s most famous Pedophilia Book.

    Yeah, it’s interesting what you could get away with a couple of decades ago. The inappropriateness of the boss-employee relationship, deemed “acceptable” because he looks like Michael Nouri and not Roger Ailes. Like a billionaire offering a million dollars to sleep with your wife who happens to look like Robert Redford. As my friend remarked at that time after watching INDECENT PROPOSAL, “Let’s half the money and have him looking like Rupert Murdoch” and we have a conversation.

  8. Majestyk, I laughed heartily at the opening of your first comment. Thank you for that. Don’t ever change.

    CJ, I too would be interested to see an alternate-history FLASHDANCE directed by David Cronenberg. Long live the new Flash!

    Vern, I’d be curious to know how you feel FLASHDANCE compares with BLADE RUNNER (a film I love, but I don’t necessarily disagree with the points made in your review) in terms of style over substance. Is FLASHDANCE a more inspiring story or is it just a case of less acclaim and lower expectations?

    Also, when you referred to the comedian Richie as relying on “Pollock insults” I wasn’t sure whether you meant Polack jokes, or if you meant he was imitating Kevin Pollak by doing a Shatner impression. Probably the first one but I am tantalized by the possibilities of the second.

  9. Wait wait wait back up.
    Flashdance was almost a David Cronenberg movie?

  10. A movie without a plot probably explains FLASHDANCE in a nutshell. It’s not good, really. It’s more like an extended MTV music video that contains little interludes of dialogue. I saw it in the ’80s, and wondered even then how you could get away with making a move this thin.

    But it’s not really terrible, either. It’s just this weird little time capsule.

    I have to say that I’m disappointed that when I click my little cursor thing on FOXES and MY BODYGUARD, no reviews pop up and I sit here feeling foolish as I click in vain. Sigh. Maybe someday…

  11. There are some really good welding scenes in this movie…

  12. A few months ago Vern mentioned on Twitter that he’d seen this and COCKTAIL back to back, and several of the replies said that COCKTAIL was better. So I watched COCKTAIL myself, and Jesus, I would not want to spend two minutes in the company of any of those people.

    FLASHDANCE is good, though! You’d constantly hear people in the ’80s saying that a movie looked like a music video or a fashion ad, and generally all they meant was that it had quick edits, but in this case it’s true. Every scene is gaudy, inventive, and ridiculous, and yeah, the plot’s as substantial as a soap bubble, but so what? And I like the way that working-class neighbourhoods in Pittsburgh, and even her welding job, are glamourised just as much as the aspirational yuppie stuff. That’s something you don’t see in COCKTAIL.

  13. COCKTAIL did have a great soundtrack though

  14. Well my comment was;
    “COCKTAIL takes a low-paying job being hassled by drunks and makes it look like being a rock star. You either find that charming Hollywood nonsense or insulting Hollywood bullshit. I choose the former.”
    Perhaps it’s more that I’m lucky enough to feel the later over the former rather than choosing it, but I stand by that, although you will note that I did not say it was better than FLASHDANCE, which it is not.

    I see that the urban legend that Sembello wrote “Maniac” for the William Lustig\Joe Spinell joint has in recent years been confirmed as just that; an urban legend. Though some sources say that his first demo was inspired by either that film or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

    The FLASHBEAGLE special was my jam when I was 3-4 years old, had it recorded off TV onto a Video 2000 tape (a format I think had actually stopped production around the time I was born). Didn’t know it was any kind of parody until years later obviously, even years later when I would reminisce about it I just called it “that one when Snoopy went dancing”. It’s actually one of the more traditional later-period Peanuts cartoons outside of those segments.

  15. Yeah I love this movie and hope this opens the door to Vern finally reviewing Dirty Dancing – which scratches alot of the same itches as this one, but is more of a legitimate “good movie” and not as much of a guilty pleasure as this one. By the way, HD does kinda kill the buzz of the final dance scene when you can clearly tell Beals is nowhere to be found; a remake with someone who can actually do their own dancing is a remake I’d totally get behind.

    Speaking of which: We saw Flashdance: The Musical when it came around here a couple of years ago. It was exactly what you expected it to be, but the three things I remember the most was that 1) they had the bucket pull of water happen right before the intermission (so they could obviously mop the floor of the water during the break), 2) the final dance scene without all the camerawork and MTV edits just looked awkward, with Alex just dancing on one side of the stage and the judges just sitting there on the other. Obviously they couldn’t have the judges dance around or cheer or anything, so it just visually conveys “this lady is kinda bombing up there” even though we know that’s not what’s happening. And 3) all the actors used wireless mics the whole time (or “The Britney Spears mic” as I call it), and even though they kept telling the audience repeatedly to turn off their phones or put them in airplane mode, people are assholes so the whole show had actor’s mics cutting in and out from interference and a good portion of the dialogue was mangled. I felt terrible for the actors, especially since I have the feeling that probably happened at every show.

  16. Oh man, there is no comparison between FLASHDANCE and DIRTY DANCING. DIRTY DANCING tells a story. It has believable characters who want things, who conflict with each other, who teach each other things, who confront injustices, who face challenges, who make hard choices and live with the consequences. FLASHDANCE has none of that. The only thing they have in common is that both feature dancing. You might as well put CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and FINDING NEMO in the same category because both have a scene with a turtle.

  17. Majestyk – absolutely agree with every word you just said (and am really glad you like Dirty Dancing as much as I do), which is why I maintain Flashdance is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Even more “problematic” chick flicks like Pretty Woman or Overboard have undeniable charm and chemistry and actual CONTENT to them – Flashdance is the epitome of style over substance but I love it anyway. It’s like a catchy pop song on the radio I should hate but really enjoy.

    I think Bruckheimer tweaked and improved the formula almost 20 years later with Coyote Ugly – it’s another disposable guilty pleasure but it tries a little harder and mostly succeeds. And I swear it seems to be on TV more than any movie ever, possibly surpassed only by Dirty Dancing. There’s probably an entire generation of young girls who grew up on Coyote Ugly and can recite every line of dialogue by heart and I’m strangely ok with that.

  18. I should mention that I have no nostalgia for either movie, not having seen either of them until seven or eight years ago when I caught up with both in the same week, along with SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and FOOTLOOSE. FLASHDANCE was so far beneath all those other movies (and with far lamer dancing, too) that I couldn’t even believe it was ever mentioned in the same sentence. FOOTLOOSE wasn’t that great either but the other two didn’t just feature dancing; they were ABOUT dancing. About why we do it, what it means, what it can accomplish. There was none of that in FLASHDANCE. Like everything else in the movie, dancing only exists to give men boners.

  19. I really wouldn’t consider COYOTE UGLY an improvement over FLASHDANCE, but I admit a lot of that may just be aesthetic; I’ve got nostalgia for the period and that LeAnn Rimes song and everything, but there’s something very charmless c.2000 conveyer belt movie about it to me, which I would likely like a lot less than an 80s conveyer belt movie (like COCKTAIL?) let alone a thin but genuinely innovative movie like FLASHDANCE. It’s also one of those films where the PG-13 rating renders it kind of incoherent; so the big selling point at the bar she works at is that they’ve all got bare midriffs, dance on the bars and occasionally get drinks poured on them? I never minded when I caught bits of it on TV either, but I think “guilty pleasure” would imply more affection on my part than is really there.

  20. Is 9 1/2 WEEKS any good?

  21. Yeah, it’s funny to me to still people criticizing FLASHDANCE and ROCKY IV for being “like a music video.” Exactly, that’s what makes them different.

  22. Pacman – Wait, did Sembello say that? There’s a whole extra on the most recent MANIAC blu-ray with him talking about the song and performing it on piano. But he might’ve said it wasn’t inspired by the movie, I don’t remember. He definitely said the original version was graphically describing murders.

  23. Oh, that trumps my info, and it seems like that interview might be on YouTube here too (it’s also quoted/cited extensively in the Wikipedia article on the song)

    Michael Sembello & Dennis Matkosky on "Maniac"

    Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky talk about "Maniac" (1980) directed by William Lustig.

  24. “Is 9 1/2 WEEKS any good?”

    I reckon it’s a “you needed to be there” movie.

    And even then, it would depend on your mileage for Kim Basinger at Peak Hotness put through a series of glossily shot softcore encounters with a perennially smirking Mickey Rourke, of which I can only remember 2; Rourke blindfolding her and feeding her stuff from a fridge and a memorable strip dance set to Joe Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On”.

    Produced by Zalman King who then directed Rourke in another Soft Porn escapade Wild Orchid, notorious at that time because, apparently if you squinted real hard and adjusted your contrast for the unrated DVD, Rourke and leading lady Carre Otis (who was his girlfriend at that time) got it on for real during the climactic (no pun intended) bump and grind.

    We were easily entertained those days

  25. Unfortunately Beals did not keep up with the dance movie craze this movie inspired. When I interviewed her for the show The Chicago Code I asked her thoughts on Step Up and she said, “What’s a step up?” Fair enough, she already dropped the mic on it herself.

  26. Pacman: Ah, right, I remember your comment. In fairness, yeah, COCKTAIL does make the bartenders look like rock stars — but only in the swanky nightclubs full of rich customers, like the one Cruise’s character will eventually own. You don’t see the same treatment given to his uncle’s hole-in-the-wall tavern.

    I still can’t believe that this movie about a drip who reads self-help business books for entertainment was such a huge hit. The only film ever to successfully use a protagonist like that is BARCELONA, which is just tribute to Whit Stillman’s genius.

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