Interesting set design can often make mediocre movies great, and great movies even better. (I can think of a few turkeys that had me coming back just to get another look at furniture placement.)
It's usually meant to set the scene, provide blocking, or further define a character... but who cares about that crap?
These particular dwellings are where we'd wanna hang out - or live - solely for the decor & ambiance, and (mostly) regardless of what transpired there in the fictional realm.

Here's 10, though I'm sure we can think of more...

Allan's apartment - Play It Again, Sam
Intended as a film geek's secret hideout - today it translates as a super chic early 70s bachelor pad: classic movie posters, robust bookshelves, ample plant life, and an enclosed music nook(!)
For my money, it's the most desirable living quarters on this or any other list.

Kenny's room - Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
It only recently occurred to us that it was, in fact, this room that most likely killed the babysitter - thus setting off the entire chain of events that the title promises.
Ignoring the discarded food remnants and overall teenage pothead squalor, it's just about the neatest and most creative PG-13 metalhead bedroom this side of the sub genre.

Mario's Magic Shop - Pee Wee's Big Adventure
I wanted -- no, badly needed a store like this in my childhood shopping plaza: a lethal combination of comic book ads, Fangoria magazine, and the Joker's entire arsenal - all wholesale!
Pee Wee's house & yard may be badass, but that's because he shops here.
And they have gum!

The Puttermans' home - TerrorVision
The setting of this ridiculous romp actually outperforms the movie it occupies.
It's meant to be tasteless and tacky, but so much effort was expended in accumulating such an eclectic array of erotic pop art that it comes across as impressively enviable - and a motif that seems easily attainable.

Lance and Jody's home - Pulp Fiction
A charming single-family ranch in a (usually) quiet neighborhood. Comfortable surroundings - perfect for working from home. Spare room in the back can be used as an office, guest bed, or storage for unpacked boxes, a surplus of Fruit Brute, and little black fuckin' medical books.

Josh's apartment - Big
A spacious loft apartment with hardwood floors and floor-to-celing windows is open to interpretation - and it takes the innocence and the edge of a 13 year-old to really tie the room together: board games, a pinball machine, free soda, and some kinda Gumby lounger. And if you're lucky enough, you can coerce a date into jumping on your industrial size trampoline.

Heidi's apartment - The Lords of Salem
An obvious choice (from a criminally underrated flick). This is the first home in an RZ movie that isn't a house of corpses, a white trash garbage dump, or faux domesticity. This is the home of a middle-aged woman from Salem who fancies herself a bit of a low-income rock star, and her place accurately represents that: gothic art, extensive record collection, and the sleek/bleak color coordination. The demons fit right into the furnishings.

The Clubhouse - The Monster Squad
There's a handful of club & tree houses to choose from, but only one is entirely dedicated to horror cinema. Though like most of the locations on this list, we never really get enough scope to spot all the details, which only prompts repeat viewings in an attempt to catalogue all the posters, magazines, toys, and vintage Halloween paraphernalia.

Lowell's home office - The Insider
Maybe it's the excitement of embarking on a big project, or the coziness of doing it in the early grey hours of your day off in your pajamas - in any case, I've always found it implied the perfect atmosphere for watching the movie: with morning coffee, surrounded by literature and inspirational art & photography, before the day's tortious interference kicks in.

The Chelsea Drugstore - A Clockwork Orange
This movie has no shortage of luscious locales: Alex's room, Mr. Alexander's home, the milk bar... but this was the first to spring to mind -- perhaps because I've fantasized my whole life of record & media shops looking this way, only to find myself in a landscape of Best Buys and Circuit Cities.
The future may've been violent as predicted, but it's certainly not this colorful.



Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -- The North Star Coffee Lounge

20 years ago this month, the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas drove a hundred miles an hour with the top down into the heart of the American Dream. Critics and audiences alike largely dismissed the film, though this didn't deter me from seeing it four times in its very short theatrical run - skipping school on at least one occasion to squeeze in an extra dose of bad craziness.
It's fair to say that all films benefit from the full movie theater experience, but I certainly have my own exclusive mental list of stuff that just ain't the same on the home video format. Having viewed it both ways, I can confidently declare that the relentlessly colorful, loud hysteria of this savage journey is definitely dulled on even the biggest TV - or the smallest "device." Bluntly put, if you haven't survived it in the cinema, you haven't really taken the ride...
Big talk for a low-budget slapstick comedy. Though light as it is, the interpretation of Hunter Thompson & Ralph Steadman through Johnny Depp & Terry Gilliam (et al., respectively) makes for a more-than-adequately faithful translation of the source material: hilariously disorienting and exquisitely structureless; and so the climax of this 'story' is understandably untraditional and compellingly poignant.
Immediately following one of the more abrasive sequences in a movie full of abrasive sequences, everything - the writing, the directing, the performances, the laughs, the psychedelic songtrack - loosens up and then solidifies into a humid, sinister nightmare: reality. (Gilliam's at his best with these kinds of moods.) After the hysterical hysteria of the first 90 minutes, our two heroes slow down long enough for us to get a good look at them: Duke (Depp as Thompson's alter ego) as the hawk-eyed observer we already knew, and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro's loose portrayal of Oscar Acosta) as the batshit-crazy L.A. attorney whose political beliefs & proclivity for social & racial justice were admirable, but was still a dangerous drug fiend - a 'high-powered mutant' - and a goldmine for literary folklore.
In the scene, del Toro torments a helpless waitress played by Ellen Barkin, and after the events of this particular story, we truly don't know what will happen. But what does happen is why it is truly the punchline to this longwinded joke; the film (as the book did) calls attention to the conceited empire/colossal failure of post-1960s culture. You can draw a straight line between this scene and the final act of Easy Rider: The American Dream is such a ripe punchline for this (or any) point in time, and like any joke, it takes talented and intelligent humorists to emphasize the question mark it's always been - and still is.

- Paul 


Six Things That Turn 30 This Year (and deserve some sorta party)

exulansis n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.
- The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

1988: all in all, too much to mention, too tedious and redundant to list.
After all, haven't we done enough to these poor icons...?

Some big league movies, music, books, video games, and TV came out of that mega-year -- some were the best of the 80s, of the 20th century, of all time.... Look it up - I'll wait.

A year of lusciously significant & satisfying pop - so much so that there are lots of crumbs left on that counter, and every particle is sacred.

So, let us skip all the stuff that has been or will be celebrated this year for the purposes of pointless nostalgia (wah ah ah--Nobody says the "B" word!) and instead turn our attention to illegal aliens, pizza points, interesting monsters, birds that talk, and fish that sing.

- Paul

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters

Feature-length Looney Tunes movies have always been of poor quality - and by 'poor' I mean terrible.
This theatrically released oddity is the exception - because it cheats. Comprised entirely of all the monster and horror related shorts produced in the 50s and 60s (Transylvania 6-5000, Hyde and Go Tweet, The Abominable Snow Rabbit, etc.) with not-quite-that-seamless filler to connect the storylines, it plays like a great compilation album of their best stuff.

Nick. Jr. 

It was an odd concept: "Nickelodeon - for kids!"
Seriously, though... These blocks of fresh-yet-bizarre Japanese and French-Canadian cartoons (and the deplorable The Elephant Show) landed right in the middle of the afternoon - great timing for this particular Kindergartener.
It evolved and mutated into other things over the years as I outgrew it, but the severely innocent charm of the original lineup(s) was a pinnacle in candied 80s syrup - free of any cynicism or satire:
Noozles, Adventures of the Little Koala, Maya the Bee, Muppet Babies, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and my favorite, David the Gnome.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures

When Playmates toy company was approached with the idea of producing a line of action figures based on the Ninja Turtles comic books, they felt there wasn't nearly enough of a demand for the green teens, & they insisted an animated series would most likely generate more interest... The rest is plastic (and television) history.
I collected the shit out of these - maybe more than any other action figure series - didn't matter that I wasn't familiar with 70% of the characters they produced: Mondo Gecko, Wingnut & Screwloose, Pizzaface, Tattoo, Chrome Dome, Fugitoid, Ray Fillet... They kept makin' 'em - weirder & weirder - and I kept buyin' 'em!

Ghostbusters for Nintendo

It was not one of the best games to come out that year - or any other year - nor was it even one of the better pieces of Ghostbusters merchandise. In fact, all the movie tie-in games were scarce in graphics and gameplay - especially this one.
Its frustrating pace and ambiguous objective give it some ironic charm, but that's not why we celebrate it. Basically, anything with the 'no-ghost' logo has an irresistible magnetism, and the movie's theme song actually sounds better in 8-bit beeps and boops. After all, marrying Ghostbusters with Nintendo feels as natural as Michael J. Fox endorsing Pepsi-Cola.

"Toy Soldiers" by Martika

The phrase "Power Ballad" is usually reserved for when headbangers try to crack the Top 40. For pop stars and soft rockers, it means an extra dose of melodrama and bass drum.
Martika's "Toy Soldiers" was released as a single the following year, but it appeared on her '88 self-titled album -- itself a buoyant 80s jamboree. But this standout track sounds like every John Hughes, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Karate Kid movie ever made - though it has no pop culture affiliation outside of its own bombastic merits. It would've made a great theme song (especially for the 1991 film, Toy Soldiers) but it never was - it just feels that way.

Mac and Me

Endlessly fascinating and perversely engrossing, and best enjoyed under the McInfluence of Quarter Pounders and chocolate shakes.
Because of its shameless product placement, it's often mentioned in the same breath as The Wizard (which, as any faithful reader of this site knows I find to be a grossly inaccurate comparison). Still though, any movie that not only features 1980s McDonald's culture but positively advocates it with a fully choreographed song & dance sequence(!) is worth some sort of deformed 'thumbs up.'
But what places it square in that "good bad movies" sub-genre are the clunky (and creepy) alien FX, the forced sentimentality (that only Capra and Spielberg had the talent for), and a terrifyingly manipulative third act that has to be seen to be believed. So see it!

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