14 October 2016

Brat Pack America: Visiting the Cult Movies of the '80s by Kevin Smokler

Summary from Goodreads:
From the fictional towns of Hill Valley, CA, and Shermer, IL, to the beautiful landscapes of the “Goondocks” in Astoria and the “time of your life” dirty dancing resort still alive and well in Lake Lure, NC, '80s teen movies left their mark not just on movie screen and in the hearts of fans, but on the landscape of America itself. Like few other eras in movie history, the '80s teen movies has endured and gotten better with time. In Brat Pack America, Kevin Smokler gives virtual tours of your favorite movies while also picking apart why these locations are so important to these movies.

Including interviews with actors, writers, and directors of the era, and chock full of interesting facts about your favorite '80s movies, Brat Pack America is a must for any fan. Smokler went to Goonies Day in Astoria, OR, took a Lost Boys tour of Santa Cruz, CA, and deeply explored every nook and cranny of the movies we all know and love, and it shows.

How up are you on your 80s teen movies?  Seen all the John Hughes movies, including the ones he wrote not directed?  How about nerd movies?  How about 80s teen movies that look back to its writers' or directors' teen years in the 50s or 60s?  How about low-budget indies shot in urban locations?

Yeah, I'm talking about Beat Street.

Taking a different tack from Practical Classics - revisiting high school English class staples as an adult - Kevin Smokler turns his eye to what was once a booming cinema draw:  the teen movie.  Specifically those from the 80s, which are receiving new attention through either nostalgia anniversaries or reboots.  (A generation is what...25 or 30 years long?  Time to recycle.)  Brat Pack America is the culmination of Smokler's travels around America as he examined how the setting of teen 80s movies reflected, commented, and documented American society as the country changed over the decade.

The result is a thoughtful, comprehensive examination of the rise of the 80s teen movie in all of its incarnations. Smokler focuses on movies that can be tied to geographic locations (real and imagined) and how those locations informed the movie or vice versa (or perhaps provided weird anachronisms). He also situates the movies within their larger social contexts - America's shift from an industrial economy to a service one, the expansion of teenagers as a population with buying power, the rise of hip-hop, the growing availability of mass culture and mass marketing. Brat Pack America is a must for anyone who wants to read more about film culture.

If you're over on Letterboxd, I've run a watchlist of the films Smokler examines in the book if you need to do a little homework.

Dear FTC: I received an advance copy of this book from the author's publicist.

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